9 Feb 2016 : Column GC125

Grand Committee

Tuesday, 9 February 2016.

Immigration Bill

Immigration Bill

Committee (5th Day)

3.30 pm

Relevant documents: 7th Report from the Constitution Committee, 17th, 18th and 19th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab): My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn and resume after 10 minutes.

Amendment 239

Moved by Lord Dubs

239: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—

“Unaccompanied refugee children

(1) The Secretary of State must, as soon as possible, make arrangements to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children who are in European countries to the United Kingdom.

(2) The relocation of children under subsection (1) shall be in addition to the resettlement of children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.”

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, there are times when this country is faced with significant humanitarian challenges and this is one now. It comes not only from the refugee crisis throughout Europe but from the perilous position of unaccompanied children.

Before I proceed, perhaps I may thank the many NGOs, including ILPA, the Refugee Council, Save the Children, my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper—who chairs Labour’s refugee taskforce—and many others. I should declare an interest, as I came to this country as an unaccompanied refugee myself.

Ever since I tabled the amendment, I have been delighted and surprised at the enormous number of messages of support that I have received and at the conversations in which I have become involved where people say, “This is really good. When’s it coming up and are you going to win?”. I believe that there is a real mood in the country that we can do more for refugees and I think that it focuses particularly on what we can do for children—other groups are important as well, but the focus is on what we can do for children. I have been overwhelmed by this; I can hardly find words to describe it. The Government should take into account that a significant part of public opinion would be on the side of the Government if they accepted this amendment.

The evidence is that there are 24,000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. Of course, the figures cannot be precise, but it has been estimated that our fair share of the total would be 3,000. That is the basis for the amendment. These figures came from Save the Children and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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We are talking about vulnerable children: the winter is coming on; they are cold; they are hungry. Traffickers will play their part, alas, in trying to capture some of them and they may be forced into prostitution. I understand that Europol has estimated that some 1,000—I may have got the figure wrong; it could be more than that—of such children have disappeared. Is it not a terrible thought that in Europe, at this time and in this year, with all the sophistication and humanitarian instincts that we are supposed to have, there are children adrift, vulnerable and in danger and that very little is being done to help them? We cannot stand by and, as I said, there are many signs that the British people want to help and see this as our collective British responsibility.

The Minister said yesterday in reply to a question that there are difficulties in Kent in getting enough foster parents for children who have arrived there by other means. All I can say is that I have been around quite a bit and people come to me and say that, if an appeal is made, they want to be foster parents and know people who want to be foster parents. The Government need to say in a loud voice that they want people to volunteer and will see whether there are enough children for all the people who offer. It may well be that there has been some publicity in Kent but I am not aware of much publicity in London or the north of England to suggest that the Government are looking hard for foster parents. I urge the Government to say publicly, “This is what we need because we owe it to these children and we can accommodate them well”. We do not want children to come here to be put into care or residential institutions. It is right that there should be foster parents and I urge the Government to make a stronger appeal.

Many years ago I had the honour of being a councillor on Westminster City Council and we were looking at the question of foster parents for local children. Eventually the council was persuaded—I have to say by the Labour opposition—that it would be better not to go on building lots of children’s homes but to make a positive appeal for foster parents. The council appealed for foster parents from outside Westminster, because it is difficult to find all that many there, and there was a good response. Indeed, the council’s policy moved away from having residential institutions for children where that could be avoided.

It is clear that this will put a big responsibility on local authorities and I would not shirk that. They would have the job of vetting whether parents are suitable. These days we are far more conscious that children have to be safely looked after and that we cannot take any risks with them—local authorities do that already for children going into foster care. It will be the job of local authorities to vet families coming forward to be foster parents and to monitor them to ensure the safety of children. That is what local authorities do anyway. It is proper that they should do it and you could apply that process to any new children coming in, particularly the ones who are the subject of this amendment. It is a crucial function for local authorities, because we want children to be safe and properly looked after and we want to be able to make that guarantee.

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I welcome the Government’s vulnerable persons relocation scheme. I have been talking to people involved in the process in local authorities and, although I think the numbers are too small, it is an important scheme and if sensibly applied will be of great benefit. But I am talking about different children, who would be additional to the 20,000 figure that the Government talk about.

There are two specific reasons behind this amendment. The first is to establish and get support for what is an important principle and we need numbers to make sure that it is going to work on any worthwhile scale. Secondly, we need to understand the Government’s position. The Minister has explained it on occasion, but I am bound to say that it is not all that clear. A government release said:

“In addition, the UK Government will commit to providing further resource to the European Asylum Support Office to help Greece and Italy identify migrants, including children, who could be reunited with direct family members elsewhere in Europe under the Dublin Regulation”.

That is fair enough. It continues:

“Where it is in their best interests, this will include bringing them to the UK”.

Of course the best interests of children must be paramount, but it is not clear to me what policy is being announced by the Government in that statement. Yes, it is important that children should be reunited with their parents if that is possible but, as regards those coming to the UK, I am not sure that that makes for a policy. I would like the Government to use this occasion to spell out what the policy actually means.

My amendment is for particularly vulnerable people and, although the figure of 3,000 is relatively small, it would make an important contribution to tackling this most vulnerable group. The best interests of the child must be paramount. Although this is not the subject of the amendment, it is important for children not to be told, “You can stay until 18 and then off you go somewhere else”. It is clear that if we take responsibility for children and they spend some years being brought up here, being educated here, living with a British family and having British siblings, as it were, it is important that they should have the chance to stay here if that is their wish. For heaven’s sake, we hope that Syria will become a peaceful country, but that seems a long way off and therefore we should accept responsibility for these children.

There are some children in European countries who have family members in this country. We have found four in Calais and they have been brought here. But this amendment is not intended to cover those children, as they already have a right to join their families under existing agreements. I only hope that we make sure that there are no other children with family members here who have just been missed out in the process.

We all know that in 1938-39 there was a crisis in Europe, as many children, mainly Jewish, in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, were helped to escape to safety through the Kindertransport. There has been quite a lot of publicity about that recently, particularly on Holocaust Memorial Day. Quite a number of those children who came over in that way, as I did, have been in touch with me to say how much they support this

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amendment. Some of the messages have been humbling, as they say, “We must do something; we got here and we want to make sure that others in dire straits have the same opportunity”. In 1938-39, most countries refused to help and it was only the United Kingdom that allowed the children entry. We were alone and we set an example that other countries did not follow. This country said that it could be done and, as a result, thousands of children could thank Britain for that humanitarian gesture. When I meet them, they go on thanking Britain. A plaque off Central Lobby was put up some years ago as a thank you from those Kindertransport children to the British people. It is worth having a look at that to see what happened.

I have had a chance, thanks to ILPA, which sent some quotes from Hansard, to look at what happened when these debates took place in 1938-39. I do not want to take too much of the Committee’s time, but I have one or two quotes, because in some ways nothing has changed. In 1938, Mr Noel Baker asked:

“Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these children in Germany in many cases are in really terrible conditions, without adult protection and without the means of finding food, and is he aware that the machinery of the Home Office for granting visas is so inadequate that the visas cannot be obtained in sufficient quantities to save their lives?”—[Official Report, Commons, 14/12/1938; col. 342.]

As I said, some of these things today are not that different from what they were then, but I know that the Minister is going to change things. There were other questions. Colonel Wedgwood asked in November 1938 whether the Prime Minister was,

“aware that delays of three months and over occur in the issue of visas to Jewish children from Germany after all guarantees have been given; will he state the reasons for the delay; and can the business be expedited, in view of the increasing danger to the children?”—[

Official Report

, Commons, 23/11/1938; col. 341.]

So there was pressure there—and there are one or two others still. There was a rather nasty quote from a politician whom I shall not name, to which Mr Wedgwood Benn said:

“In the interests of the good name of this country, will the hon. Gentleman do his best to discourage questions such as this?”—[Official Report, Commons, 24/11/1938; col. 341.]

I shall give just a couple more, because it is quite useful to find out what happened some years ago. The Archbishop of Canterbury made a plea, in this case for Czech children, saying that,

“nothing but benefit could accrue from the absorption of a good many of these intelligent children”.—[

Official Report

, 5/7/1939; col. 1024.]

It is only a few months ago that Sir Nicky Winton died, aged 106. He was the person who brought children from Prague, mainly in 1939. I went to his 106th birthday party two months before he died. For me personally, it was important that I was able to be there and celebrate his birthday. I could see that he was sinking but, my goodness me, he was still sharp. A couple of years before, on his 104th birthday, I said, “Nicky, how are you?” and he said, “I’m fine from the neck upwards”. What a man. He lived in Maidenhead and on his 103rd birthday the Home Secretary came along to his birthday party, so I was in good company. Sir Nicky Winton saved many children from Czechoslovakia, including me, and I would like to feel that other children in Europe now are to be given the same welcome and opportunities that I had. I beg to move.

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3.45 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): It gives me the greatest pleasure to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Sometimes a situation will sweep through a country and bring compassion and tears to so many people. This is the case especially after the last weekend, when we saw the continuing destruction of Aleppo, with scores of thousands of people crowding on the border between Syria and Turkey. They will somehow move from there. They will join that trek, like hundreds of thousands before them, to some sort of hope. Many of them will be children.

I know that in Wales we sometimes have very sad cases where a child has been abducted or put in some danger and people say, “We’ve got to do something to save this child”. Whole communities will rally round to save that child, and so we should. Except it is not one child, but scores of thousands of children. But if we will do it for one child, so we should be prepared to embrace the children that are there—we cannot see the one child because of the hordes of other children. It is a matter of individuals, of little toddlers. I have seven grandchildren myself. They are usually fairly well behaved—not always—but you would defend them and speak for them. You would do anything. You would rather be hurt yourself than they be hurt.

We now have a situation with many unaccompanied children. I think of the parable of the good Samaritan. I should not bring my Sunday sermon here, but in that parable we remember that a traveller on the road—I am not preaching—from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves. There he was, left at the side of the road. He had been robbed of everything. Two temple officers came by and said, “We’d better not touch him. We could be contaminated if he is dead”. They kept on talking. I imagine that they would have met in Jericho and one would have turned to the other and said, “You know, it’s a dangerous situation on that road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Let’s set up a committee to safeguard these people who travel along that road”. Now, we want committees; of course we do. What would we do without them? The House of Lords would be abolished tomorrow if we abolished committees. But that person was still at the side of that road until a Samaritan came who cared for him, took him to the inn and made sure that he was on the way to being well again.

We have a tragic situation from Syria to Calais and Dunkirk, but we need people who will not first go to a committee, but say, “Something needs to be done. We have to act now”. I mentioned yesterday in Questions our debt to the thousands of young people in particular who are in the camps and on some of the Greek islands and sacrificing so much to be there. We owe them a tremendous debt. It is the Red Cross, Calais Action, the Refugee Council and Save the Children—they are there. These are the people with their hands to the wheel in those places.

What are we going to do? If we say that the UK will do no more, where will those children go? Possibly they are asking on the Turkish/Syrian border now, “Where do we go?”. They get to Calais or Dunkirk and they say, “Where do we go?”. Are we going to pull up the drawbridge and say, “You can’t come here?”.

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If we do, we condemn these children not only in the present time. If they live through the present time to a childhood scarred with memories it will not be to the well-being of the rest of us. Action needs to be taken for the tens of thousands of children as if it was for just one child, for just one of my seven grandchildren.

It is a big undertaking, of course it is, but Canada has taken 25,000 refugees in two months. It was great, seeing that happen and hearing that an appeal went out on the radio in Canada when that first plane arrived at Lester Pearson Airport in Toronto: “Please, will no more people come to the airport? We’re under siege with people wanting to welcome these people from Syria”. The heart of the people is with those people who are tramping across borders or suffering in the camps.

In 1939, we said that we would accept our responsibility for people threatened by the blitz on our large cities—Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, of course—and in two months there were arrangements for evacuating 3 million people. We could do it. If we could do it for 3 million people in 1939, we can do it for 3,000 children now. I do not think there is any reason for us not to do it. I cannot think of a valid reason to come to this Committee and say, “Oh, yes, it’s this; it’s this; it’s this”. They are tiny children, like our children. I urge the Government to think again. I assure noble Lords that Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted would be under siege by the warm-hearted people of the UK wanting to embrace and welcome them. I urge the Government from the bottom of my heart to think again on this.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, I can see the point of the Government’s plan to collect child refugees from the Middle East, but the thousands of children who were seen on our television screens in October and November last year were already in Europe. The impression at the moment is that the Government are refusing to respond to what has become a public demand. I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. This is not just an emotional issue; it is a case of practicality. The Government are talking about an admirable resettlement scheme, but, except in the case of family reunion, they are ignoring unaccompanied minors and ignoring this plea.

Baroness Neuberger (LD): My Lords, I support this excellent amendment. This is the least that we can do. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and my noble friend Lord Roberts said, there is a huge groundswell of support to bring some of these children—as many as we can—into this country. It is enormously important to get those children out of there, particularly out of Calais and Dunkirk.

I have to declare a couple of interests. I am rabbi of West London Synagogue, which runs a drop-in for asylum seekers and asylum-seeking families, and we have a lot of volunteers who have been going to Calais and Dunkirk. What they say about the situation of those children and the degree of risk to them and the appalling circumstances in which they live is truly ghastly.

I am also a trustee of the Walter and Liesel Schwab Charitable Trust, which was set up in memory of my parents. My mother came as a refugee. She was a

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domestic servant when her younger brother was still at school. His teacher rang her from Germany and said, “You have to get your brother out of here”. So my uncle came as a semi-unaccompanied refugee and was looked after by the most wonderful foster parents, who responded to general appeals for foster parents. They came forward, took him in and looked after him for months until my mother could cope.

It is ironic that we have been holding these Committee stage debates on the Immigration Bill around the time of Holocaust Memorial Day, when we have been saying “never again” and have been remembering the Kindertransport and the refugees who came. When one looks back on those speeches, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, did, on the whole you think a lot of the parliamentarians in 1938 and 1939 were truly wonderful people. However, I want to mention Eleanor Rathbone who is something of a heroine of mine. She also helped my grandparents, who also got out just before the beginning of the war. She said that our being so slow in taking action—in a slightly different area—was the equivalent of saying:

“’We are very sorry for all the people who are in danger of being drowned by this flood, and we will do our best to rescue them, but, mind, we must use nothing but teacups to bale out the flood’”.—[Official Report, Commons, 31/1/1939; col. 151.]

The trouble is that we have been so slow and are taking such very small actions. Three thousand is the very least we can do. We should go to Italy or to Greece and see the huge numbers who are there and then ask ourselves whether 3,000 unaccompanied children on top of the 20,000 who the Government have already said they will take is really too many. I hope the Government will accept this amendment.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I am very glad to speak in support of my noble friend—and he really is a friend. What he has said has been all the more powerful for us because of his personal story. He speaks with all the authority of having experienced exactly what we are talking about. Having had the benefits of the response and care that he received, he is determined to see that shared with the children of today. That is a very powerful position.

I believe we should do what is proposed in the amendment because it is right. I do not see how anybody could argue that it is not. These children—bewildered and bereft—are totally innocent. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, said that they are asking themselves, “Where shall we go?”, but some of them are so bewildered and lost that they are not even asking that. The thought in their minds is, “How are we going to survive?”. They are terrified, frightened and bewildered.

If we have any values in this country, surely we should say that it is imperative to respond. I listened to the noble Baroness’s powerful point about how we are slow to respond, but I am afraid that we are not just slow; inadvertently or not, we seem to be generating a certain message. We have to face the fact that that message is interpreted by many as our seeing something unfortunate or threatening about this situation. The message is that we have to somehow defend ourselves and make concessions where that becomes unavoidable —or clear that it would be impossible not to do so.

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We have to face the fact that what confronts us now is only a small fraction of what is going to confront us in the future. With climate change and all the conflicts that are arising, we are going to see the movement of people on a huge scale. That makes it abundantly clear to me that we should establish a record of participation as leading members of international organisations and arrangements, rather than being perceived as defensive and frightened all the time and making concessions. That is not the intention.

I am going to be personal—and this may be embarrassing for the Minister concerned—but I am absolutely convinced that we have a thoroughly decent and very humanitarian Minister sitting with us this afternoon. I have no doubt about that at all. I am also convinced that he doing his level best within government to extend the Government’s response as much as he can. I want the message to go from this Committee that he will have 200% support from us in doing that. I am sure that it will be a message from the House as a whole that he will have nothing but overwhelming support in doing everything possible.

We have to accept that the response of people in this country is not just emotional but practical. I was very struck when all parties in the local authority adjacent to where I live in Cumbria said unanimously—and this very much provides tangible evidence of the case that my noble friend was making—“We must do something. We want to do something. Will the Government help us in pulling our weight as a local authority?”. They were not bludgeoned or cajoled into it. They did it spontaneously. I am sure that my noble friend, who has a home up there too, knows what I am taking about. It was very impressive and I thought it was good: in this community, these values are not just something for individuals but something that the community as a whole is determined to put on record, and we must not let them down.

4 pm

My noble friend said that 3,000 is a small figure, and of course it is when we are confronted with the size of the challenge. But the great point about my noble friend’s approach in his amendment is that he is putting down a tangible, achievable target. I hope that he would be second to none—I am sure he would—in saying that, if we make a success of this, we should see what else we can do.

Given my experience as a former director of Oxfam, I could speak at some considerable length about situations of this kind, but my concluding point is that what we have to get straight in our politics is that we will be judged as a generation of politicians—Governments and Oppositions will be judged—by the priority we give to recognising that we are a totally interdependent global community. What is relevant and important is to be seen in the strength of our commitment and drive in the contribution we make to the whole cause of effective international governance and action. I am afraid that, in too many spheres, our record has been one of dragging our feet, being at the end of the queue and always talking about the problems. Of course there are problems, and practical problems at that, not least pressure on the domestic community. But, for goodness sake, the message should be: in the name of

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humanity, of all the values we proclaim and of Christian civilisation, which we talk about a lot, we have to do something. Yes, we will have to face the problems, but the message should be: what are we doing and how much can we do? How much, by our own example, can we generate a greater response on behalf of humanity as a whole? It will be by our example of positive attitudes and a determination to do most, not just what is possible to manage, that we will have influence on policy across the world.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, much has been said about the part played by modern communications in the current conflict. Part of that is that we cannot claim ignorance of what is happening. The media, NGOs, colleagues and friends—I, too, have friends who have undertaken voluntary work in northern France—make so abundantly clear what is happening that we cannot escape that information.

I want to pick up on a couple of points that are used as arguments in this debate. One is the idea that children should be kept in their own region and culture, among people from similar backgrounds. Leave aside the variety of people who are volunteering to help children, is it better for children to stay in the region or to be alive, with shelter, not being abused or trafficked, and with access to food, education, health services and so on? Do we keep children in the region so they can be reunited with their families?

I am not persuaded that the administration and the records that will be available if they stay in the region will be better than they would be if the children were brought to this country through a government scheme. I am sure the records will be kept very carefully. I have seen somewhere that the UNHCR regards the chances of relocation if children are brought to this country as still being high. On the question of family reunion—children who are refugees in their own right have rights—it is said that this is, in fact, an underhand way of getting the rest of the family into the UK by sending the children on ahead. I simply do not believe that that is likely except, perhaps, in a very small handful of cases. In any event, the children have rights.

In previous debates I have acknowledged the difficulties in finding foster parents. I know what is said about all the volunteers: there is a general shortage of foster parents for British children. Maybe this will break some sort of logjam. I acknowledge the support that will be needed for foster parents and for local authorities. It is very important to recognise all that because people who are dealing with these children will be dealing with very sensitive, difficult, delicate situations and children who, almost inevitably, will have been damaged. We hope that this is an exercise in not damaging them further.

Like other noble Lords, I have been fascinated by the extracts from Hansard from 1938 and 1939. Not only are the arguments those that are being used today but the ancestors of a number of current Members appear in them. The then Earl of Listowel pointed to a precedent on which Her Majesty’s Government had acted before: the work of the International Red Cross in the south of France. Our shared heroine, Eleanor Rathbone, said:

“We are apparently willing to abandon them”—

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the refugees—

“to the danger of being handed over to their deadly enemies rather than risk a few thousand pounds in bringing them over. I know that the Under-Secretary has sympathy in this matter, and I appeal to him to do something to speed up the mechanism and to relax these regulations … Cannot we risk a few thousand pounds rather than abandon these people to the terrible fate that may possibly await them? I feel that in this small matter we may appeal with some hope of success for the Government to adopt a more farsighted and generous policy than heretofore”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 31/1/1939; col. 151.]

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, has been very clear about our party’s stance on this and has been a part of the call for the Government to enable this number of children to be brought here. He has done so because, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, it is right. However, this is not a party-political issue. What is most important is that this has caught the public mood of the moment and we should go with it.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I am pleased to support my noble friend. The Government are to be applauded for the aid they are giving directly to the region and their recent statement regarding resettling some unaccompanied children, mainly from the region. However, as Heidi Allen MP said on the “Week in Westminster” on Sunday, no amount of such aid can help those in Europe now. In a recent Commons debate on child refugees in Europe, Sir Eric Pickles—not someone I normally quote in support of an argument—said that while the Government are quite right to keep children in the region,

“we are where we are. There are children at risk, and I urge the Government to look carefully at that”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 25/1/16; col. 41.]

Perhaps, more accurately, we should say these children are where they are. Refusing to help them is not going to result in them returning to their homelands. Instead, they are stuck in appalling conditions. The International Development Committee took up Save the Children’s recommendation that we should take 3,000 unaccompanied children. It made a very strong recommendation in support of that and called for urgent action from the Government on it. The committee warned that children are prey to exploitation by people traffickers—the very thing that the Government say they want to avoid by supposedly not encouraging children to make the perilous journey to Europe.

Ministers rightly say that any action to assist unaccompanied minors must be in the best interests of the children and that this is their primary concern. But how can it be in the best interests of unaccompanied children to be left to fend for themselves in the camps of Calais and Dunkirk without hope and, as we have already heard, at the mercy of hunger, cold, exploitation and people traffickers? Like my noble friend Lord Dubs, I am not totally clear what the Statement of 28 January promised. In particular, can the Minister confirm that, as Save the Children says, it is intended to try to reunite lone child refugees who are already in Europe with families in the UK? If so, that is welcome, but can he say exactly what is intended and how many children he expects will be helped in this way?

Finally, I take this opportunity to ask the Minister about a report in the Independent on Sunday that the Council of the EU is discussing measures that could

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have the effect of criminalising individuals and charities that help Syrian refugees, including children, when they arrive on the European mainland—in particular, on Greek islands. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, talked about what we owe those people, who are doing amazing humanitarian work. Can the Minister give an assurance that the Home Secretary will oppose any such measures? The very suggestion that such humanitarian action could be equated with people smuggling is, frankly, quite abhorrent. I hope that the Minister can assure us that the report is unfounded—I do not necessarily believe everything that I read in the newspapers but this is an opportunity to check it out—and, if it is not unfounded, that the Home Secretary will vigorously oppose any such move.

In the mean time, I hope that the Minister—I agree with what has been said; I know that he is a Minister who listens and cares—will be able to give hope to children who need it. I hope, too, that, even if it is not a final response to my noble friend, he will be able to give a response that at least leaves the door ajar.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment and I have just one question for the Minister. I wonder whether he has noticed a statement by a small and rather obscure English NGO that has a database with the names of 10,000 would-be English foster carers. I apologise for not having the name of the organisation with me but, even if that figure has become inflated or if, when those volunteers are vetted, not all of them are suitable, surely there must be enough to cope with the 3,000 children mentioned in the amendment. Taking up those offers would greatly ease the burden that presently falls on the local authorities in, for example, Kent and Sussex, and it would spread the load much more evenly around the country.

Finally, I urge the Government not to insist on deporting children who reach the age of 18. They may once have entered this country illegally but they have been here for a considerable number of years. They have been to school in England and have made friends in England, and they should not be deported.

4.15 pm

Baroness Sheehan (LD): My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and put on record how impressed I have been with all the other speeches so far in support of the amendment. I will focus my remarks on looking in a little more detail at the court case that the noble Lord briefly mentioned.

On 18 January, the Upper Tribunal ruled that three unaccompanied minors and a vulnerable young man with mental health problems from the camp in Calais had a bona fide case to be allowed to join relatives already resident in the UK. This case is important because it follows a legal challenge co-ordinated by Citizens UK, which cited a little-known provision in the Dublin III regulations that allows an asylum seeker to join their relative in Britain if they have already applied for asylum in France. The Upper Tribunal ruled that the Home Office should immediately allow the three children and one adult to join their families.

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Although the Government had argued until then that, under Dublin III, applications for asylum must be made and processed in France, the court accepted that the reality is very different and that the French system is, indeed, broken. Applications from asylum seekers with family already resident in the UK are not being processed and passed on to the UK. In effect, the safe and legal route has been denied to asylum seekers who have done all that has been asked of them.

In this ground-breaking ruling, the court accepted that evidence of a written claim to asylum in France was sufficient to prove that the children had initially sought safety there. Therefore, the court subsequently ruled that, instead of waiting for the French Government to ask, the British Government must act. It will now be up to Britain to examine the claims of these specific cases under the Dublin regulations. This changes the nature of the debate: the Government can no longer hide behind what can be described only as a broken system. Or can they? Will the Minister confirm whether the Government are planning to, or have already, appealed this decision? If so, why?

With the release of the dreadful figures from Europol citing 10,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children having gone missing, probably into the hands of human traffickers, surely the Government should now capitulate and accept the moral and legal case for accepting the relatively small number of the 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into Britain that we, the Liberal Democrats, other politicians of a variety of different parties and numerous NGOs have been asking for. Citizens UK has identified several hundred children in Calais and Dunkirk alone who have a bone fide case for being brought to Britain. I saw some of them when I was in Dunkirk this Sunday, just as Storm Imogen was gathering pace. There is little justification for leaving anyone to suffer those conditions, let alone the young people who have every legal right to come to Britain. Surely the time has come to get on with it. The unaccompanied children we are talking about have relatives already resident in Britain, so there would be no burden on any of the local authorities.

Lord Green of Deddington (CB): My Lords, I would like to inject a note of caution into the debate, which has been a little one-sided. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is right in suggesting that there is widespread support for refugees, and especially children. Nobody is more qualified to say that than he is. The question is how to do it, and that needs a little bit of thought. The proposal is to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe, and that is entirely understandable. It is entirely right to offer refuge where that is in the best interests of the children. However, I think I have a slight difficulty over the suggestion that these children should be selected from those already in Europe. The reason for that is this: there is some risk that it would encourage families to send their children in advance in the hope that that would later open the door, as it were, for the rest of the family to claim asylum.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, did not seem to think that there was very much in that, but there is some evidence from Sweden that that has been the case, and we have had some experience with Albania, when a very large number of families got the idea that,

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if the children went first, they could follow. We need to be careful of that, and conscious that this could become a selling point for people smugglers in the camps around Syria itself.

Let us take orphan children, by all means, but I rather think it might be better to take them from the camps around Syria and to do so on UNHCR advice. We are doing that already with families, and I do not see why we should not extend that—indeed, I believe we should extend it—to orphan children in those camps. The UNHCR could provide an objective account of those children’s circumstances and take a view as to whether there was perhaps a better solution involving the child’s extended family. Remember, extended families in Syria are very close, very strong and very important. I suggest that we would do better to reinforce our work with the UNHCR. By all means increase the numbers, but let us be quite sure that we do it in a way that does not have a downside attached to it.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, am I to understand from what the noble Lord said that his concern is about where the children may be coming from rather than the numbers? It would be encouraging to hear him say that he thinks that 3,000 is not wrong.

Lord Green of Deddington: My concern is that, if we are not careful about this, we might encourage families to send children on ahead. We need to look at that very carefully because those children would be at exactly the same risk as those already in Europe now. It is a very difficult and sensitive area. There are almost instant communications between child refugees and the adults in their families. If you open a door and give the impression that, “Get your kids as far as Rome and the Brits will have them”, then the risk is that we will make a bad situation worse, if that were possible.

Lord Judd: Before the noble Lord sits down, I thought the noble Lord put his view very morally and I do not believe that it can be dismissed out of hand. However, the question I want to put to him is what would he do about the children who are already in Europe? That is the point: they are already there. As my noble friend said, we are where we are. Although there may be intellectual logic and force in his argument, we have a real situation.

Baroness Neuberger: Could I add to that? The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has put the specific number of 3,000 children in his amendment, and we know that these are very troubled children. The situation is particularly ghastly right now and we know that some of those children are disappearing. That sounds alarm bells for all of us.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: That 3,000 figure is the figure that Save the Children calculated specifically in relation to children who are already in Europe. That does not, of course, make it inviolable, but I am sure it considered the arguments because, clearly, it will know that those are the arguments that the Government have used. The Save the Children number was accepted by the all-party International Development Committee.

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Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, eventually I will be allowed to sit down. There are some very serious points here. There is a large number of destitute children in Europe. The issue is how we suggest our Government respond to that. Suppose we take 3,000 children in the UK as part as what I think has been described as our share. So 30,000 or 40,000 children are taken into care in Europe. Do we seriously think that none of the families who are refugees from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan will deduce from that that the best way forward, particularly as the borders close and the Turks get more difficult and so on, is to send a child ahead? I think that they might well. I cannot be definitive about this—we need the evidence and we need to think about it very carefully. But there has to be a risk that if you say, “Right, we’ll have the kids”, other family members will follow and we simply make the situation continue and possibly even get worse. Whatever we do, there is a dreadful situation. Let us be really careful that we do not make it any worse.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, we could probably spend four hours going backwards and forwards on this obviously important subject, but it might be useful, given that we have a number of things to get through, to hear the views of the Front Benches.

Lord Rosser (Lab): I do not intend to speak at any great length. We support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs. Indeed, it is quite clear that not all Government MPs are opposed to taking unaccompanied children already in Europe, not least some of those who have been to the entry points in Greece and other parts of Europe and seen the situation for themselves. We also welcome the financial support the Government are providing to those in camps in Syria and neighbouring countries.

I think we are all agreed—everyone who has spoken is—that we should be taking some unaccompanied children; there might be an issue as to where we take them from. It is not clear, as has already been said, what the Government’s intentions are in this respect, certainly in relation to numbers. The Government, obviously, up to now are sticking to their line that they would be from within Syria and neighbouring countries, but I think I am right in saying that we have not been told how many. I suppose one answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Green, about the extent to which our taking 3,000 unaccompanied children who are already in Europe might act as an incentive for parents to send their children that way might be that it rather depends how many children the Government intend to take from Syria and neighbouring countries. Clearly if they intend to take quite considerable numbers that might still be seen as the most favourable way of seeking admission, provided the criteria were met, into the United Kingdom. That, no doubt, is something that the Minister will comment on when he replies, perhaps giving an indication of how many unaccompanied children the Government expect to take from Syria and neighbouring countries. I ask again how the Government actually reached their initial figure of taking 20,000 people over five years. I am still not clear how they reached that. It would be interesting if the Minister could comment on that as well as on the

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number of unaccompanied children the Government expect to be taking under the arrangements they have announced.

The reality is, as has already been said, that we have apparently considerable numbers of unaccompanied children already in Europe. I am certainly not confining my comments to Calais and Dunkirk. Indeed, the amendment refers to children,

“who are in European countries”.

It is not related simply to what may be happening in Calais and Dunkirk. My understanding, unless I have got the figure wrong, is that Europol recently said that more than 10,000 unaccompanied children registered after arriving in Europe over the past 18 months to two years have disappeared. It said that youngsters arriving in Europe alone are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. That, no doubt, is something on which the Minister will comment. Why are the Government refusing to take some unaccompanied children from within Europe—a specific figure is mentioned in the amendment? Where children have been identified as being unaccompanied, on their own and having come from a country ravaged by civil war, where hundreds of thousands have died and many have been brutally murdered, is it really still the Government’s policy to wash our hands of them as far as relocation to the United Kingdom is concerned because they landed cold, wet, scared and on their own on, for example, a Greek island rather than being in or near Syria? Up to now, that appears basically to be the Government’s stance.

4.30 pm

If we are not prepared to contribute, what is the position of genuinely unaccompanied children already in Europe? Who is responsible for them? Should we, as a European nation, not accept responsibility for some unaccompanied children entering Europe? I, too, hope that the Government will reflect on the situation. I do not think this is in any way an unreasonable amendment. It is not asking for large numbers, when you consider the totality of unaccompanied children across Europe. It is solidly based, in the sense that the figure of 3,000 is related to what I understood was the estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children in Europe today. I hope, as I am sure does everybody who has spoken, that we will hear that the Government may be giving further reflection to this issue, if they will not agree to change what appears to be their current stance.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: The noble Lord, Lord Green, spoke earlier. Is he a grandfather or a father? Has he children? Would he trust his children to leave Syria to walk across Europe to reach the temptations of Italy and Greece and to meet the deprivations on the way? Would he really think that his child could manage unaccompanied? Is it not really a fantasy to think that these kids are not going to suffer in this way? I would not have thought of putting my children or grandchildren on that trek, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Green, would not either.

Lord Green of Deddington: I am a father and a grandfather and of course I would do nothing of the kind, but then I am not in the situation of families

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in Syria. It is almost unimaginable to do that, but the question is whether there is a serious risk that it could happen. There is some evidence that that is exactly what has happened in relation to Sweden and Albania—Albania is different because that is a peaceful country. I raise the question. We need to be careful. If it was done through the UNHCR, we would be saving the same number of children, but we would not run the risk of encouraging further children to get into serious difficulty.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): Before I address the remarks relating to this amendment, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, to the chair. I understand it is her first Committee outing as a Deputy Chairman. As an alumnus of that role, I know the fear and intimidation of being faced with the Marshalled List in a very difficult Committee. I am sure all members of the Committee will be very sympathetic to her on her first day.

No one can be unmoved by the quality of the contributions to this debate—I declare myself a father and a grandfather. We identify absolutely with the pain and suffering which people are feeling at this time. I agree with the UN Secretary-General that this particular migration crisis is one of the greatest since the formation of the United Nations. He was right in talking about the scale of the problem.

It might help the Committee if I set out the rationale behind the Government’s current approach and set that in context of the fact that we are dealing with a very fast-moving situation. There is quite a lot of pressure which, rightly, comes from people who are trying to nail the Government down and ask, “Where are you with this particular Statement?” It is very fast moving. A significant number of discussions took place on the margins of the Supporting Syria conference a week last Thursday. Some 35 countries were there discussing these issues. On Thursday, James Brokenshire will be hosting a round table with Save the Children, UNHCR and UNICEF to discuss the specific statements on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children made by the Government on 28 January. This issue was raised by Save the Children and underscored by the DfID Select Committee. There is also the ongoing International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich on Thursday which will be attended by the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary. I am trying to set this in context: it is very fast moving.

If I was standing here in this capacity last year, I would have been facing questions—I was standing here last year and I did face questions—from noble Lords who asked me repeatedly to tell them how many people had currently arrived. Officials would tell me to avoid putting a number on it, because it was not very impressive. It was fewer than 100, then 120 and 130: complaints came that it was derisory. Then came the Prime Minister’s announcement in September that it would be 20,000 over the period of this Parliament. So far, 50% of those have now arrived. He said it would be 1,000 before Christmas and I then got repeated questions asking whether they would all be here by Christmas. More than 1,000 arrived by Christmas. That process is continuing. Last year we might have talked about £500 million of aid committed to the

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region, particularly to help Syrian refugees. That figure went up to £1.1 billion and last week it was doubled to £2.3 billion.

It is right that we are moved by the terrible situation which people are facing but, outside this Committee, it would be unfair to present a picture to the many organisations who are doing incredible work in this area that the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, are unmoved by this. He is deeply moved by it and the Government are trying to work their way through.

As to the approach we are taking, the crisis we identified was that people were undertaking a perilous journey. I understand the arguments made about “we are where we are” or “they are where they are”, but that was the context in which we began this policy. The European Union’s policy at that point was relocation: in other words, people arrive and then you simply move them around different countries. We felt that simply having the same policy was not the right approach. The total number it aspired to move around was 160,000; currently some 340 have actually been moved. I do not want to start from the premise that we have somehow just plucked this approach from the air and that it has been proved to be fundamentally wrong.

We said that we needed to stop them undertaking that journey, because we knew that they would then immediately fall prey to the criminal gangs—we know the figure of 90%. These gangs are making vast fortunes from trafficking individuals. In fact there was one particular gang which was broken up by the National Crime Agency, working with Europol on 2 December, when 23 people were arrested. This one gang was responsible for 100 Syrian migrants a day coming into Greece and was making estimated earnings of €10 million in the process. This is a very lucrative business. Our first principle is to say that everything we need to do is to stop people making that journey. You then say, “How do you stop them making that journey if you are just giving them humanitarian aid?” They need some hope that they can potentially get out of that area through a safe route—and therefore the Syria Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme was expanded. We worked with the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR to identify the most deserving people, based on established international UNHCR criteria—namely, those who had been victims of torture or persecution; women and girls at risk of violence; and those in acute medical need. Those were the priorities. When they were identified, they could be brought out not as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children but in family units. They are put on a plane with papers; they come to Glasgow, London or wherever it is, and they have a house. They have social workers around them; the children have a place in a school prepared for them when they arrive, they are able to work immediately when they arrive, and they get language support.

So while noble Lords say that we are not doing enough, it is perhaps wrong to say that there is no logic underpinning our approach. In fact, all the way through this process, we have worked very closely with the UNHCR, which believes that it is best to keep families together, particularly for children. That is why

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we have been following that approach. Of course, there are many more things that need to be done. In terms of how the amendment is worded, to come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, it talks about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children without designating a specific country. That is one of the things that we have discovered is a real issue. Under humanitarian law, to designate the specific country is very difficult, because you are then differentiating between people on the basis of geography rather than need. So the wording of the amendment is correct.

In the year to September 2015, 1,570 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arrived in the UK, and 61% of those children were 16 or over. Only 7% were 14 and under. I have to say that those figures surprised me when I read them, because when I thought of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children I thought of my grandson, who is five or six. As we have discussed in Questions before, a large number of that particular group come from certain areas such as Eritrea, which is not to say that Eritrea is not a country that people would want to leave because of their conscription and national service in an open-ended way. They also come from Albania and other countries. At the moment, Albania forms 632 while Eritrea forms 460 of the total unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, while Afghanistan forms 179 and Syria 118. I present that as simply an expansion on the designation and the general term of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. In other words, are we actually helping those whom we want to help the most?

Lord Green of Deddington: On that very point, is the Minister aware that something like 40% of these unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are involved in an age dispute? Quite often, those who claim to be 16 are found to be 18. The point is that many of them are older than one might think.

4.45 pm

Lord Bates: That is possibly the case. The Prime Minister announced on 28 January that we are going to continue the discussions. He also said that it is absolutely critical for people’s safety that, when a child or anyone sets foot on a Greek island, in Italy or in any of the reception areas, they are properly recorded via biometrics at that point. That is supposed to happen under the Dublin regulations. However, it was not happening and Europol was deeply concerned about the risk of a lot of people going missing and not being able to be tracked. We have given the European Asylum Support Office additional support, which is then directed to—it is an awful name—hotspot centres, which are reception centres. We have established a £10 million fund to help, particularly with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Home Secretary has asked the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, to go to each of those centres and, as a former police officer and someone who is leading the modern-day slavery initiative and the implementation of the legislation, to evaluate the situation and see what more can be done in that area, and then to report back to Ministers. We have established similar funding for people to search out the most vulnerable in the camps at Calais and Dunkirk.

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A number of noble Lords mentioned the situation of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, particularly in Kent. I totally accept that many people are willing to foster children. The generosity of the British people is as alive and well now as it ever was in 1938, but often they are not sure how to help. Following the exchanges that we had yesterday, I was inspired this morning to get a letter from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. I have not asked his permission to mention this but I shall take the risk and ask his forgiveness if I have it wrong. I had mentioned that, sadly, despite widespread support among people who are saying, “We are prepared to help and to be foster parents”, only a very small number of local authorities—about six or seven—had come forward to offer support. The right reverend Prelate said that he would be prepared to write to diocesan bishops across the country saying that this might be something that they could raise with their local authorities to see whether they could do a little more to help during this acute crisis. There is much more that can be done, but I wanted to take the opportunity to set out the Government’s approach for noble Lords.

Perhaps I may answer a couple of specific questions that were asked of me. In terms of the Dublin regulations and reuniting families, there is no limit on the number. If someone qualifies under the Dublin regulations and claims asylum, they will be admitted to the UK. Of course, the point of difference between us that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, mentioned is that the Dublin regulations are—again, this is an awful word—triggered at the point that a person claims asylum. If people in camps in Calais and Dunkirk do not claim asylum there—of course, they do not want to claim asylum there, because they want to get to the UK and claim asylum here—they do not get the protections afforded by the Dublin regulations. That is a problem and we need to work through it, but that is how it arises.

The French have set up 96 welcome centres across France and 2,500 individuals have chosen to go to one of them since October. Some 80% of them then decided to claim asylum or take voluntary return.

I say to the noble Lord and to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate that I totally get where they are coming from and I empathise very much with the position. There is a huge amount going on, perhaps not seen, and I have tried to lift the veil on a little bit of what is going on at present. Suffice it to say, I have no doubt that we will come back with further announcements on progress, particularly on the issue of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, over the next weeks and months, as we should and as the Prime Minister has stated. I hope that, in that spirit, the noble Lord may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I asked the Minister a very specific question about the Independent on Sunday report. If he cannot reply now, will he undertake to write to me? He has been very good at following up our sessions with full letters.

Lord Bates: Yes, I will write to make sure that I get it absolutely right.

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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister talked about the situation within Syria and potential relocation within Syria. Is he able to say a word about what seems to be quite a fast-changing situation, where the places to which the Syrian population might go are being bombed, starved or both almost out of existence? The situation changes fast. It would be useful to have on record whether the Government’s thinking is moving equally fast.

Lord Bates: It is a fast-changing situation and needs to be balanced with what we are talking about, which is wanting to ensure that we do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in need. We should also bear in mind when we talk about 3,000 children that there are currently 2.1 million children who are refugees from Syria, so 3,000 in addition is a relatively small number. You can help more in the region. I do not want to sound heartless: we talk about 3,000 people in this amendment, but our aid is providing 15 million food rations already, supporting 600,000 families, educating or supporting in education 227,000 children and providing 2 million medical interventions. I am not expecting people to say, “That’s fine, then”. The pressure needs to be maintained. It is a great humanitarian crisis and this place should be putting pressure on the Executive to take further action. I hope from what I have set out that I can go as far as to say that the Government are taking this seriously. We are not unmoved by it and Britain is doing a substantial amount of which we can be proud.

Baroness Sheehan: Can the Minister say a few words on his statement about most asylum seekers being 16 year-olds, at the upper age of the limit? Surely that is not surprising, because a five or a six year-old, unless he had an older sibling to help him, could not make that perilous journey. Also, NGOs on the ground have told me that 17 and 18 year-olds tend to claim to be younger than they are because they do not wish to get caught up in the dysfunctional immigration asylum system in France. I think that that argument works both ways.

Lord Bates: I hear what the noble Baroness says. The age verification of children is a key challenge facing all the agencies. That is why trying to establish documentation is so important. One can understand why, when someone is received into the country, they self-declare as being a child, because they may then get a different level of treatment and protection. That may be one reason why the age profile is what it is. It is difficult to know how to get around that, other than to work with the individual to identify their documents and age and to make sure that they are in the system and can get age-appropriate support.

Lord Dubs: I am enormously grateful to all Members of the Committee who have spoken. With two exceptions, the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Green, they have all been in support of the amendment, and I am grateful for that. Even the noble Lord, Lord Green, and the Minister qualified their opposition by making sympathetic and reasonably supportive comments.

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Briefly, I will say one or two things in reply to the debate. First of all, of course we all welcome the government money that is going into the refugee camps in the region and of course we welcome the vulnerable persons relocation scheme—it has a lot of merit. I think some of us think that the numbers are very small in relation to the number of people in the camps in the region, but we all think that it is a good scheme. We also think that the principle of keeping families together is desirable. The difficulty is that, if there were only people in the camps, and not a million or so more in various European countries, the principle would be easier to apply and we could persuade other EU countries to do the same as we are and take in the vulnerable families. The trouble is that that is not the situation as it is.

We are dealing with a very large number of people who have fled the region—and victims of people trafficking certainly—and are now scattered across many EU countries. It is from among those people that we have identified that there are 24,000 or so unaccompanied children, who are in a particularly desperate situation. In the camps, at least there is support from the various agencies and the United Nations to enable them to live in not wonderful conditions but at least to get food, water and some shelter. But for some of those in Europe, heaven knows whether they have any safety at all. That is the point of the amendment.

Three thousand is a very small number. The Minister talked about the Dublin convention and I wonder whether he is seeking refuge behind that when other EU countries are not necessarily adhering to it either. That may be for another day.

We have an urgent problem. I understand that there is a concern that some of this might provide pull factors for the families. However, as far as we know, these children are, at the moment, on their own. Honestly, if a handful of them had been pushed out of the region in order to attract family members, it would not be a large number and I am pretty convinced that the majority of these unaccompanied children have not been pushed out as a way of enabling their families to follow them. These are children who are vulnerable in their own right.

Lord Green of Deddington: I am not suggesting that any significant proportion of those now in Europe have been sent ahead. It is the future that I am concerned about: that taking 20,000 or 30,000 might in future lead to children being sent ahead.

Lord Dubs: That is a situation that we would have to consider if and when it happened. At the moment, we are talking about a group of very vulnerable children. For all the caveats that have been expressed, I think it right that the Government should do something clear and positive by supporting this amendment.

I think that we have covered all the arguments. There was one quote—I forget which Member of the Committee said it—that I wrote down: “The least we can do”. Whoever said it, I welcome the phrase. It summarises the feeling of the Committee. Yes, there may be other children in the future, but let us for the moment deal with the problem as we see it in various European countries. Let us say that this is the least we

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can do and that we have a moral responsibility to do it. We have had a good debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I say with some confidence that Report beckons.

Amendment 239 withdrawn.

Amendments 239A and 239B not moved.


Clause 44: Penalties relating to airport control areas

Amendment 239BA

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

239BA: Clause 44, page 44, line 10, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument provide for the application of the provisions and penalties under this section to those responsible for assuring that border controls are enforced on arrivals and departures at general aviation sites, private landing strips and helipads.”

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, we are now on to Part 6 of the Bill on border security. This is the first of a number of amendments on that. I welcome government Amendment 239C, which recognises that border security is not only about maritime security; we have a land border in Northern Ireland. Many years ago when I was at Chatham House and dealing with the beginnings of European co-operation in police, I kept coming across policemen, as well as Conservatives, who said, “But we’re different. We only have a maritime border”. They should go to Dublin and try to explain that. The delicacy of the border between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland is very considerable and would be very sharply affected if we were to leave the European Union. It is very good to see the government amendment.

My initial interest in this area came from looking at the Channel Islands as a very odd, semi-British dependency. I noted that the owners of the Daily Telegraph—a newspaper that bangs on about border security and the defence of British sovereignty—have a company that owns at least one helicopter, which advertises that it flies between Brecqhou and Monaco. Since the Channel Islands’ authorities rarely, if ever, send a policeman to Brecqhou, let alone a border security officer, I assume that this is a means of entirely avoiding border security. I mark that as one of the many oddities of the way the debate on sovereignty and border security in this country takes place.

Thinking more widely on this, we can see that it is clearly a serious loophole. I am one of those people who occasionally looks at the Financial Times weekend supplement, How to Spend It, just to see how people who earn £3 million a year or more get through it. The editor of the Daily Mail, another newspaper that bangs on about sovereignty and border security, is supposed to earn £3 million a year, so now doubt he thinks about spending his money on things such as that. There are advertisements in How to Spend It for yachts with their own helicopters, so you can fly directly from your helicopter in the Mediterranean to your helipad on your estate in Surrey—or, for that

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matter, the helipad close to us in Yorkshire, where you can get straight on to the grass moors, if you like, again without passing through border controls.

As the super-rich extend their ability to fly in light aircraft and helicopters across national boundaries, there is a growing problem that needs attention. When I first came into government I was briefly spokesman for that aspect of the Home Office that dealt with counterterrorism and border control. I spent a very interesting day with the West Yorkshire Police and the combined Yorkshire serious crime squad, learning about how they work. One of the things I remember most strongly from that was that there is no domestic serious crime. All serious crime involves criminal networks; all important criminal networks are cross-border.

The idea that we do not need to be too careful about helipads at luxury hotels, golf courses or estates in Surrey because the people who go there are rich and therefore law-abiding is not necessarily accurate. Some of them may be rich and not entirely law abiding. Some of the richest people in this country are Russian oligarchs. They may, or may not, be law abiding in this country, but the origins of their wealth may not have been entirely according to British legal standards. Others are from Gulf royal families. Most of them are entirely honourable people, but occasional ones claim diplomatic immunity because they represent St Lucia on the International Maritime Organisation or whatever. There are, therefore, occasions when they may not be entirely in accordance with British law. We have no idea who they may bring in and out of Britain in their private aircraft or helicopters. They may even be bringing domestic workers without visas to work for them here under conditions which we regard as illegal and against the Modern Slavery Act.

I raise this question as there is a major loophole in border security and incursion into British sovereignty. I hope the Government will provide a sign that they are aware of the seriousness of this loophole, which is growing as air traffic from private aircraft and helicopters grows, that they are doing something about it and that they will close the loophole. I beg to move.

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 241A in my name. At the end of the debate at Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, responded extensively to a wide range of questions and comments. One of them, brought up by me and a number of other noble Lords, was about the fact that we have so little information in this area. In his response, the Minister read off a whole lot of evidence and research that the Government had possession of. I was unsatisfied by that, because most of the information did not help to determine an evidence-based policy towards migration, particularly the illegal migrants who are in the country. I therefore set myself a challenge: if I was making a decision, as a Minister, on the basis of evidence, what would I want to know? If, in my business life, I was looking at market research, what would I try to determine? I then asked myself if it was possible to determine them, because that is clearly the second stage of this. I have put in the amendment the sort of information that I would want to know if I was a Minister or Secretary of State making decisions

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about how I approached this subject. Illegal migrants in the country are clearly a problem: no one denies that. If they are here illegally they should not be here, and we should be able to take action. I have a list of eight or 10 things that I would want to see. I will be interested in the Minister’s response in terms of actually finding those things out. Are they, indeed, the sort of things they should know?

The second question is: is it possible to know about and explore something that is an illegal activity? There have been studies of the number of illegal migrants in the UK but I understand that the last major one—maybe by the LSE—was in 2009. It estimated that there were somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 in the UK. There is quite a large margin of error between the minimum and maximum numbers in that estimate. Is it possible to measure illegal activities? I expect that noble Lords are aware that in May 2014 the Office for National Statistics started to include in GDP figures the amount of GDP generated by illegal drugs and prostitution. Prostitution is not strictly illegal, but in terms of how it is carried out it is broadly seen as an illegal activity and therefore had not been brought into GDP before. The total GDP for those two activities was about £12 billion; more or less 50%, or £6 billion, related to illegal drugs, and approximately the same figure related to prostitution. It is therefore possible to estimate those types of figures with a reasonable standard error, if not with certainty.

The techniques that have been used to measure illegal migration are the Delphi method, the capture-recapture method and the residual method, which has been used to make these estimates in the United States. I am not for a minute saying that this is an easy or totally accurate exercise, but for decisions around such important areas as this, which we all want to solve, we should spend a little more resource and time moving away from rhetoric and into understanding what is going on. By doing so, we might have a lot better decisions about migration management, and there might be legislation that we can all agree on, rather than taking rather normative views.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. In fact, I am amazed to hear that this loophole exists. We are now under considerable threat from terrorism. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that people of wealth are not necessarily any less likely to be objects of suspicion than others, but he rather implied that only people of wealth would have access to these means of arriving in Britain. That is simply not true. Let us get away from the idea that terrorism needs a lot of money. Noble Lords will remember that the post mortem on 9/11 worked out that the total cost of doing the whole of 9/11 was lightly less than $250,000. The idea that money is any constraint on people who wish to get into this country by a means that does not involve a check is not valid. I have been arguing for years in your Lordships’ House that there should be proper entry and exit checks. We have been immensely dilatory about them. It is very late in the day because now we are under real threat and it is essential that the Government give a positive answer to this.

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The details are very easy to work out. The law states that anybody landing has to land somewhere where there is a place to check them and, if that adds to the cost, so be it. If it is an emergency landing of some sort, they have to signal it, which they would have to do anyway—and all aircraft have radios—and would be required to remain there until the police were alerted and went to meet the aircraft. It is an essential matter to stop this loophole, and I hope the Government will immediately say that they will draft the necessary regulations to support the implementation of the noble Lord’s amendment.

5.15 pm

Lord Rosser: We have an amendment in this group that calls for the Secretary of State to undertake a review of border security. Part of that review would be to consider the adequacy of resources currently available at all points of entry to the United Kingdom; it also provides for the review to be laid before both Houses of Parliament within one year of the passing of this Act. I do not want to make many points, since concerns about border security have been expressed already, but I do not think that the Government know how many people are coming in and out of our country and who they are. They do not, for example, have any idea what the net migration figure will be each year. It seems to come as much a surprise to the Government as to anyone else.

We really have got to the stage when we have to get a grip on our borders. After all, it was only recently—it may have been last month—that a terror suspect on bail departed at a major sea port. We have also had an instance of a terror suspect from the continent coming in through the same route. It would appear that some of those whom we regard as extremists perceive the ferry borders to be a weak link—and it looks as though they have some reason and justification for feeling that way, unfortunately. The Home Secretary really must conduct an urgent review of border security at ferry and other terminals and provide urgent reassurance that passports are properly checked on exit and arrival in the UK.

I think that it is the case that more than two years ago the Government were warned by the National Audit Office that there were worrying gaps in the new Border Force. A recent report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration suggests that those gaps are still there and that potential terrorists can also enter our country unchecked—for example, as has already been mentioned, via private planes and boats—as well as there being some evidence that they can come in and out of the country through major ports. Even if the Government do not feel inclined to accept my amendment—naturally, I hope that they will—I hope that we will hear in the Minister’s response that some steps are being taken to tighten up on our borders so that we know who is coming and going, not only the numbers but who they are. I hope that it will be an end to reports, whether from the National Audit Office or from the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, that there are gaps, and quite serious ones, that need plugging.

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, I support Amendment 240. The sheer scale of immigration is a major public concern. I agree with the noble Lord,

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Lord Rosser, that we need to get a grip, and part of that is a matter of reorganisation, which I think is at hand. Another part is to have a legal framework, and we are doing that today. But none of that is any use at all unless it is enforced. I am increasingly of the view that the lack of resources is becoming a serious constraint; it really does need to be looked at, and the Government should explain how they think they can achieve their objectives on the resources that they have so allocated.

Lastly, I offer qualified support to Amendment 241A. Illegal immigration is a very important subject that is often ducked. We have looked at this, and it is very difficult to get beyond merely ballpark estimates, but it is worth having a shot at and I think that the Government should do it—not annually, because there is just not enough information for that, but it should be done and it would be worth doing.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I shall be brief if I can, because—if I can make a pitch wearing my Whip’s hat—we have six more groups of amendments to debate.

It may help if I speak first to government Amendment 239C, which I hope will be uncontroversial. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for his support on this amendment. This makes a minor change to extend the maritime powers in the Bill to Northern Ireland port police by altering the definition of “Northern Ireland constable” in new Section 28Q of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, as inserted by paragraph 7 of Schedule 11 to the Bill.

The two harbour police forces in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Harbour Police and Larne Harbour Police, were not initially included in the Bill as the categories of officers listed are modelled on the maritime powers in the Modern Slavery Act 2015. However, we have listened to points made by Northern Irish Members in another place and agree that a consistent approach should be taken across the UK with the enforcement of immigration control. Therefore, this amendment aligns the position of port police forces in Northern Ireland with those port police forces elsewhere in the UK which are already included in the Bill. It will be a matter for individual port police forces to consider whether they wish to use the powers or rely on the relevant territorial force—for example, the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Amendment 239BA would extend our penalties for misdirected passengers to general aviation sites, private landing strips and helipads. It is the Government’s intention to operate the misdirected flights penalties only at sites where there is a designated control zone to which arriving passengers must be directed for border checks by the Border Force. I shall come on to the points that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, made in a moment. Given the large number of general aviation sites, landing strips and helipads in the UK that do not have a permanent Border Force presence, this amendment is unnecessary and unworkable. It would place a disproportionate burden on those sites. Border Force officers attend such sites only when they need to check specific arrivals.

On what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was saying about the potential loophole, I should quickly mention how border authorities handle general aviation flights.

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The Border Force and police take an intelligence-led approach to general aviation, which strikes a balance between securing our borders and best managing resources. Flights are risk assessed in advance and, when appropriate, border authorities will physically examine crew, passengers and goods. There are in excess of 3,000 private air fields nationwide, and it would be unfeasible for the Border Force and police routinely to meet all arriving flights. It was noted by the independent inspection report published in January that the Border Force has made a number of significant recent interventions in the general aviation environment. I confirm that all those travelling via general aviation are subject to the same immigration and visa requirements as those using scheduled services. The noble Lord asks whether we are doing something about it. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 includes enabling provisions for a stronger legislative framework for advanced notification for general aviation. Regulations will bring greater clarity to what is needed from the sector but also provide for appropriate sanctions to enforce compliance by the small minority that do not provide advanced notification under the current arrangements.

Amendment 240 seeks to include provision for a statutory review of border security in the United Kingdom. The Border Force operates a control regime which is predicated on checking 100% of scheduled arrivals. Our collection of advanced passenger information from carriers enables us to identify known subjects of interest to law enforcement agencies before they travel, allowing us to intervene and direct airlines and ferry companies not to carry certain passengers so that they never even set foot in the UK. The Border Force adopts an intelligence-led approach in combination with its partners to identify and intercept contraband goods which have the potential to cause harm to the public. Our visa regime provides another vital way by which we are able to manage the threats from crime, terrorism, illegal migration, and espionage.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration regularly reviews Home Office immigration functions, including our management of border security. Most significantly, following the independent chief inspector’s critical review of the then UK Border Agency, Border Force was established as a separate law enforcement body. The Home Office also works with a range of other partners, including port operators, carriers and road hauliers. This allows us to review processes and security interventions to make border security work efficiently, and to work together to intercept threats while keeping the flow of law-abiding passengers and freight moving as smoothly as possible. I assure the Committee that the Government keep the UK’s border security arrangements under constant review and these arrangements are subject to rigorous scrutiny by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration—as I have said—and by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The reports and publications of both of these are laid before Parliament. On this basis, we do not consider there is any need to introduce a further statutory review process.

Lord Rosser: Are the Government satisfied with our border security arrangements at the moment?

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Lord Ashton of Hyde: We are always looking to improve them. We agree that security is paramount. If there are areas that the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration brings to the attention of the Government, they will certainly consider them.

Amendment 241A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, requires the Secretary of State to undertake or commission an annual survey on illegal migrants residing within the United Kingdom. I completely understand his reasoning and agree with it in theory. He asked whether we agree with the list, I think it is a good start but there are problems. We are committed to tackling illegal immigration. The primary aim of this Bill is to introduce measures to make it harder for illegal migrants to live and work in the UK. However, we do not believe that a Home Office survey of illegal immigration in immigration is achievable, nor that it would deliver the information set out in the amendment. Given the clandestine nature of illegal migration we do not see a practical way to sample a representative population of illegal immigrants to meet the aims set out in the amendment.

As the noble Lord said, there have been research exercises in the past to estimate the illegal population, but these, as he said, have been very speculative with very wide margins of error. They have looked only to estimate the overall level of illegal migration and are not surveys of illegal migrants, which is a wholly different exercise. Very few government surveys are mandated in this way. However, I reassure the Committee that the Government are taking action to improve our understanding of the scale of illegal immigration in the UK. From 8 April 2015 the Home Office introduced exit checks to provide more comprehensive information on travel movements across the UK border since that date. These will help us take more effective action against those who remain here illegally. In the longer term the data will also provide valuable information on the immigration routes and visas that are most subject to abuse, enabling the Government to make targeted changes to tackle this.

I am afraid that the noble Lord will be disappointed that I am unable to give the Government’s support for this amendment, but I hope that the thrust of the new legislation provides reassurance that the Government take the issue of illegal immigration seriously and are taking active steps to counter the problem. In light of the points I have made on these matters, I invite the noble Lords not to press their amendments.

5.30 pm

Lord Marlesford: On the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, how can the Home Office argue that there are no resources? It is absurd. It may not be mega-bucks to use private planes, but it is quite expensive. To charge a cost for someone to be at the landing place to check the person is absurd, given the present terrorist situation and the fact that all the indicators say that the terror alert is very high. Look at it another way. We do not hesitate to have police cars, probably with two police people in them, checking that people are not going 40 miles an hour in a 30 mile-an-hour limit, which they should not be doing, but the resource is there. They are the real resources. It is inexcusable not to be following up what the noble

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Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said. The Minister says in triumph, “We have now introduced exit checks”, but it is a real disgrace that the Government had not done so long ago, certainly at the time of 9/11.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: On that last point, I do not know that one can blame just this Government, but I accept the noble Lord’s point on exit checks. They are a useful procedure to have. I believe that we had them in the past. We reintroduced them. Nobody is saying, and I certainly did not say, that the reason we do not have permanent Border Force personnel at every single general aviation airfield is simply a matter of cost. The Border Force has 7,700 members, I think. If we had someone permanently at every single general aviation airfield, we could use the whole of the Border Force on that. It is a question of value for money. We are not sitting there doing nothing. As I tried to explain, under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, we are extending the powers so that advance passenger information can be enforced. It is an intelligence-led procedure. We do not have Border Force people sitting for weeks on end with no passengers arriving from abroad. We try to do it in a more proportionate and value-for-money way.

Lord Marlesford: I shall ask the Minister a very straightforward question. How is it that, when I was pressing for exit checks, I was constantly told, “We do it by intelligence? We do not need to do it regularly”, but it is now being done regularly? Does the Home Office not understand that we are in a much more dangerous position than we were? Will it wake up please?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The Home Office understands that because it takes advice from the law enforcement agencies. Of course, we also take advice from my noble friend. It is not true to say that the Home Office does not recognise the security situation. In fact, the Home Secretary regards it as her highest priority.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the noble Lord must clearly be too young to remember who abolished exit controls. It was indeed Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, as an economy measure. She thought that they were unnecessary and cut the number of people employed by the border service. That was some time ago.

Lord Green of Deddington: Perhaps I may correct the noble Lord. Exit checks to Europe were abolished by the Conservative Government in 1994 and exit checks to the rest of the world were abolished by the Labour Government in 1998. Both decisions were wrong.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: They were amended by this Government.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I tabled my amendment simply to make sure that the Government and, in particular, the Home Office took this point on board. I am very happy to talk further. We are looking for a response from the Government on this. Of course we recognise that 3,000 private airports cannot be

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entirely covered. One has to use intelligence. As the noble Lord replied, I was thinking of the days when as a schoolboy I used to dip sheep on a farm. The policemen always turned up to check that you were dipping the sheep properly. In those days, there were ways in which they made sure that the law was enforced in all sorts of places around the country. Clearly, we need a degree of intelligence.

The use of private planes and private helicopters is clearly growing. This is not a static situation. The Government’s response therefore cannot be entirely static. They have to be much more aware of what is going on and of the potential for abuse and for people who are engaged in illegal activities, possibly even terrorism, to use this route as well as many legitimate people.

The noble Lord did not mention the Channel Islands loophole. I have asked a number of Written Questions on it. I am struck that the liaison between the British Border Force and the authorities in the Channel Islands may not necessarily be as tight and mutual as we would wish. If one looks for areas where our border controls may not be entirely secure, the Irish land border and the Channel Islands maritime border are the most vulnerable. I will be interested to hear what the Government have to say on that in particular.

Above all, we need to be sure that the Government do not give the impression that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. There are a number of other areas where the Government are edging towards a situation where unkind people, or Private Eye, could indeed suggest that there is now one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. I look forward to further discussions off the Floor with the Government. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 239BA withdrawn.

Clause 44 agreed.

Schedule 10 agreed.

Clause 45 agreed.

Schedule 11: Maritime enforcement

Amendment 239C

Moved by Lord Bates

239C: Schedule 11, page 140, line 16, leave out from “means” to end of line 18 and insert “only a person who is—

(a) a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland,

(b) a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve, or

(c) a person appointed as a special constable in Northern Ireland by virtue of provision incorporating section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847;”

Amendment 239C agreed.

Schedule 11, as amended, agreed.

Clause 46 agreed.

Amendment 240 not moved.

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Amendment 241

Moved by Lord Marlesford

241: After Clause 46, insert the following new Clause—

“Obligation to provide information on passports

(1) A condition of the issue of a new passport to, or the renewal of a passport of a British citizen who was either born outside the United Kingdom or who was not a British citizen at birth by Her Majesty’s Passport Office is that the citizen supplies details of their citizenship of other countries and of passports held relating to any such status at the time of application.

(2) A person holding a passport issued or renewed in accordance with subsection (1) must supply that Office with information regarding any acquisition or loss of citizenship of another country within one month of such a change.

(3) Information gathered by Her Majesty’s Passport Office for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) shall be made available—

(a) to the Home Secretary for consideration as part of a decision made under section 40(4A) of the British Nationality Act 1981;

(b) to immigration officers for consideration when undertaking their duties.”

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I do not apologise for raising yet again the simple point that it is necessary and urgent that the Government should arrange to have details of passports that British passport-holders hold other than British passports. I have nothing against people having as many passports as they want. There are lots of reasons why they may, such as sentimental family connections, birth connections or travel connections. There were days when you had to have two passports if you went to China because the Americans did not like a chop from China. There were days when you could not go to certain Arab countries if there was a chop from Israel. The Israelis gave up the chop, so it was made less necessary. All I am saying is that it is essential that the Government should be aware, so that when somebody produces their passport at the airport, puts it on the scanner—that is a big technical advance now being implemented—and the immigration officer sees the readout, he or she should also know what other passports that person has. That is all I am asking. It is very simple.

The Government have resisted and resisted this. I am afraid that it has become a bit of a Home Office game of “Yes Minister”. It is rather like my firearms register, which took 10 years to get accepted. The electronic register of all firearms is now in extremely good working order and very effective, but if I had not persisted for what turned out to be 10 years it would not be there.

I now ask for something pre-emptive. In this awful world we live in, we have to think about what can go wrong. In an earlier debate somebody, I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, gave the example of somebody who had skipped out on bail, apparently with ease. I was put on to the point of needing to know about other passports six years ago by people from the security world who said they had great difficulty and gave an example of madrassahs in Pakistan. Plenty of people—and this is no criticism of the situation—have Pakistani and British passports. They would use their British passport to go in and out of the UK and get up to mischief using the other one. When they came

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back, people would have no idea where else they might have been or what they might have done. It made the whole scrutiny process extremely difficult. The Home Office has got to learn to identify problems and think of the answers.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister produced a very interesting example in the last day or two which was well worth saying. If we were to leave Europe, the arrangements between France and Britain for policing people coming into Britain from France might be in danger of falling down and being abolished. The camps might then appear in Folkestone or somewhere in southern England. That would not be acceptable, but it is perfectly easy to deal with. In the case of people coming by ferry, the answer is simple. If the French were to say that we could no longer have British immigration officers on their territory—and I cannot believe they would—we would put them on the ships and not allow people to disembark without having been checked. If they were found unsatisfactory they could stay on the ship and go back again. There are already perfectly good arrangements for airlines. The Prime Minister was right to draw attention to this possibility. It would be tiresome if they overturned a very good system which has existed for three or four years. When I was on the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, we visited Calais and saw the policing arrangements. We have all seen them when we travel between the continent and Britain. It is a perfectly satisfactory arrangement: the French police are in the station in London and the British in the station in France.

All I am doing in this amendment is saying that it should be required that those who have other passports notify the British passport authority. When I raised this in an earlier debate, the response was that when somebody applies for a passport they do have to notify about other passports they hold. I could read it from Hansard but I will not bother because the noble Lord has read it himself. The difference is that it is not on the record: it is merely looked at, at the time. That is an incredible gap. Maybe the Minister will be able to tell me that if people have applied for a new British passport—or renewed one—and have shown, declared or revealed that they also have a non-British one, that is now on the record and shows on the screen when their passports are scanned on arrival in Britain. I do not think he will be able to tell me that it is, but I would be delighted if he could. It is now necessary to extend the system so that all passports held by British people have on the record details of other passports held. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen (Con): My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of Lord Marlesford. I have relatives with dual Australian and British citizenship. Going in and out of Australia, they use their Australian passports; going in and out of Britain, they use their British ones. Even when flying from one to the other, they change their passports over because it is much quicker for them to get through immigration in both countries by using the passport of the country in which they land. However, there is then no record of the journey in the other passport. The passports of both countries should have a note that they have dual

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citizenship and, possibly, give the passport number of the other country. My noble friend’s suggestion is eminently sensible.

Lord Green of Deddington: Will the Minister ask his officials whether this apparent gap makes nonsense of the net migration figures? It could confuse them.

5.45 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, when I was in government I asked on a number of occasions how many British citizens hold dual nationality. We all know that we run into a number of problems with dual nationality, particularly when a British citizen of origin of another country is taken into custody in the country of origin. Dual nationality is a very cloudy concept. I should simply like to add that it would be very helpful if the Government would take this back and possibly even provide a Green Paper on the whole issue of dual nationality within Britain. We all have friends in that situation. I have a nephew and niece who hold British and Irish passports and a nephew who holds British and South African passports. My niece, who works for a development charity, sometimes finds it extremely useful not to be a British citizen when she is in a rather difficult country.

There are some major issues here. A substantial minority have British and Pakistani citizenship, and another substantial minority have British and Bangladeshi citizenship. These are delicate issues. They raise large public policy questions and some security questions. It would be useful if the Government would commit to looking at this matter further and reporting back to Parliament.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. Perhaps I should first declare an interest in that one of my daughters has dual nationality. Indeed, she has two passports.

I start by saying that the noble Lord, Lord Green, very kindly asked me to ask my officials rather than answer his question. I certainly will ask my officials. Equally, I will take on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and take them back to the department.

My noble friend Lord Marlesford has form on this question. I am conscious that I am but the latest in a long line of Ministers—“distinguished Ministers” is being whispered to me—including my noble friends Lady Anelay, Lord Taylor of Holbeach and of course Lord Bates, who, within a very short space of time, have answered the question put by my noble friend Lord Marlesford during debates on immigration Bills, counterterrorism Bills and in Questions in the House. As I said, I am just the latest in a long line and so, in hope rather than in expectation, here goes.

My noble friend will be aware from his long-standing interest in this matter that Her Majesty’s Passport Office requires holders of passports issued by another country to provide details of that passport at the time of application. He made the point that he understood that; the question was whether it would be on an electronic, searchable register. The reason for asking for other passports is to minimise the ability of the

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British passport applicant to obtain a British passport in a name and identity which is not consistent with an overseas passport. The holding of dual or second nationality is not in itself relevant to the issuing of a British passport. Instead, HMPO collects the information on any other passport held in order to help confirm the identity of the applicant. It provides an additional element of identity verification.

Therefore, requiring a British passport holder who holds or held dual nationality to supply information outside the British passport application process would be an unnecessary and additional function for HMPO. Failure to notify any acquisition or loss of citizenship would require an enforcement and penalty structure. This would in our view be disproportionate and likely result in legal challenges as the failure to notify would have no impact on the validity of the British passport. As I said, it is already a mandatory requirement for all applicants to submit any other passports that they hold, British or otherwise, when applying for a new passport. However, I can tell my noble friend that the Home Office continues to explore ways in which information held within the department is shared effectively to help to prevent and detect crime. My noble friend will be pleased to learn that HMPO is looking at enhancing how information at the point of application is collected and shared across Home Office agencies by making better use of technology. This would include information collected on dual national passport holders at the point of application. Information is held by the Home Office on dual nationals who apply for British citizenship and who subsequently apply for a British passport. Such information is necessary to progress the application for citizenship or when making jointly an application for citizenship and a passport. Outside of either process, the need for information on dual nationality would be unnecessary and would not serve any useful purpose.

Finally, I recognise that my noble friend has concerns about the security implications if his suggestions are not accepted, and I agree that the security of the public is of the highest importance. That is why we ask the views of the law enforcement agencies each time this matter is raised. Their response remains consistent—that the establishment of a dual national database is not considered operationally essential. Despite that, I fear that my noble friend will not be convinced by this response, but I hope that he will acknowledge that information on dual nationality is already collected and maintained. We do not see additional security benefit in extending the data collection process. I respectfully request that the amendment be withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen: Does my noble friend consider that, when someone has more than one passport, the other passport should be noted in the British passport so that officials know that there is more than one nationality involved and other passports may also be held?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: As I said, we are trying to make that information available by using electronic means, and we are looking at that at the moment. We have not received advice that that is necessary. Information is always useful to have, but it is not considered an operational necessity at the moment.

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Lord Green of Deddington: I think the important word is “essential”—operationally essential. If you ask that question, you will get the answer that you would hope for. But would it be operationally valuable? Were they asked that question and, if so, what was the answer?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I shall turn the question round. If you ask any law enforcement agency if it would like some information, it will always say yes. The question is whether it is nice to have something or it is an essential tool, and that is the advice that we have received at the moment.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I am afraid that my noble friend has reinforced my argument, by indicating that the information is already being collected and it is only a matter of having it on the same record as the passport record. It would obviously be useful to know, once you know that somebody has another passport, when they are entering or leaving the UK on the other passport, which will often be screened. If it showed that that person had a British passport as well, that might well be a clue and be useful. But the fact is that they are collecting information and then not using it; that is my complaint. I shall withdraw the amendment, but I will come back to it on Report, when we can have a proper debate.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I must correct the noble Lord on one thing. The Passport Office collects information for foreign passport holders when they apply for a British passport. What it does not do is to maintain it consistently through life; for example, it does not keep up-to-date addresses, and things like that. What I was saying was that, for the information that it does collect, on application and renewal only, it will attempt to make available throughout the other law enforcement agencies. But it does not collect information across dual nationalities, as the noble Lord would want, except when someone applies or renews a British passport.

Lord Marlesford: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 241 withdrawn.

Amendment 241A not moved.

Clause 47: English language requirements for public sector workers

Amendment 241B

Moved by Lord Keen of Elie

241B: Clause 47, page 45, line 29, at beginning insert “in England and Wales or Scotland,”

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, we are grateful for the consideration of the devolved Administrations and the interest in the other place of Members of Parliament representing

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Northern Ireland in relation to this part of the Bill. We have listened, and government Amendments 241B to 241E, 242A, 242B, 242D to 242F, 242H, 242K and 245B represent our response. They are many in number but they have a simple purpose: to apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on a uniform basis the duty to ensure that all public sector workers who work in customer-facing roles speak fluent English; save that, in Wales, the duty will be fulfilled by fluency in English or Welsh. It will apply only to public authorities that exercise functions in relation to matters which are not devolved. At present, the Bill provides for the duty to apply to public authorities exercising any functions of a public nature in Wales. The respective Governments have since agreed that it will apply to public authorities only to the extent that they carry out functions in relation to matters which are not within the legislative competence of the Welsh Assembly.

Noble Lords will have noticed that the Bill does not yet provide for the duty to apply to Northern Ireland. In the other place, a commitment was made to reconsider that position in this House. Our amendments now provide for the duty to apply only to public authorities that carry out functions in relation to excepted matters in Northern Ireland.

Noble Lords will have noted that the Bill already provides for the duty to apply in Scotland only to public authorities exercising functions in relation to reserved matters, so there are no further amendments affecting this region. In these circumstances, I beg to move.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 242, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have added their name to it. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that Clause 47 does not lead to discrimination against public sector workers in a consumer-facing role whose first language is British Sign Language by explicitly exempting them from the provision.

In his letter of 19 January to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster-General stated:

“The most significant additions to the Code”—

the code of practice, that is—

“will come from organisations strengthening the content with guidance and practical examples—notably in areas of interest to Noble Lords during the Second Reading debate; avoiding discrimination and providing clarity in how the duty applies to those who communicate using British Sigh Language. We strongly support the use of British Sign Language”.

It also said that one of the main findings of the consultation was:

“Further guidance, clarity and practical examples could be added to support authorities’ understanding and practical application of the duty to reduce any discriminatory impact. Business Disability Forum and Signature will provide case studies for inclusion in the Code to clearly demonstrate application of the duty and the responsibilities of public authorities towards members of protected groups and to advance equality”.

This is very welcome and suggests that the Government accept the spirit, if not the letter, of the amendment.

Nevertheless, Sense, which alerted me to this issue, believes very strongly that writing an exemption into the Bill would remove the possibility of misinterpretation

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by any authority, which might still occur if clarification were in only the code of practice. Failing that, I wanted to ensure that the Minister’s assurance in the letter appears in


, because it is crucial that we ensure that the Bill cannot be said to discriminate indirectly against deaf and deafblind people, for whom British Sign Language is their first language in either its standard form or as adapted for deafblind people. I am told that its grammatical structure is different from English, so it is possible, on the face of it, that someone might argue that someone using it is not speaking fluent English.

I would be grateful if the Minister would be willing to look again at the possibility of writing a clear exemption into the Bill so as to remove all doubt and therefore reassure organisations such as Sense. If that really is not possible for some good reason, I would at least welcome a clear statement on the record—based on but perhaps going beyond what is in the letter of 19 January—of what the code of practice is intended to say regarding how Clause 47 should not discriminate against users of British Sign Language.

6 pm

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I have been working in this House since the late 1970s for people with various forms of disability, and I note that British Sign Language is now accepted throughout. I do not understand why the Government are taking it out of the Bill. I know that it is unlikely to be used very often because it is much more difficult for someone who uses British Sign Language to be face-to-face with the public, but there are members of the public who use British Sign Language as their first language. Therefore, it is essential that some of the people with whom they have to relate when going about their business also use British Sign Language. It is important that the amendment is included in the Bill.

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, I am a signatory to the amendment. It is an extremely important issue because the assumption is that the code of practice and the public sector equality duty will be sufficient in this case. Clause 47(8), which I have reread a number of times, makes it very clear that somebody in a customer-facing role should speak fluent English. The Department for Work and Pensions has accepted British Sign Language as a language since 2003. We do not want to permit any confusion to arise, and the way to solve this is simply for the Government to accept the amendment because it makes it absolutely clear that British Sign Language is an acceptable language and that it is not just a question of an employee having spoken English.

I hope that the Minister will understand that there are some 70,000 people in this country for whom British Sign Language is their first language. As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, made clear, this is not just about those employed in a customer-facing role; it is about how you respond to customers who want to speak to somebody who can communicate through British Sign Language. I hope that the Minister will not see this as some kind of bureaucratic minor matter, as it is very important in terms of the public sector equality duty. It cannot simply be left to a code of

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practice when it should be written clearly in the Bill so that there is no doubt about how public sector bodies should respond.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Paddick and I have three amendments in this group: Amendments 242C, 242G and 242J. Before I come to them, I shall say that I support the amendment on British Sign Language. My noble friend Lady Humphreys is in her place. She heard the confirmation about the Welsh language and welcomes it. I say that in the context of wishing this clause were not here at all. I appreciate that there was a line in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the previous election and that is why I have not sought to take these clauses out altogether.

The impact assessment on these clauses confirmed my anxiety about their potential for encouraging discrimination and harassment. It says:

“The policy objective is to ensure a sufficient standard of fluent English is maintained and can be enforced … This is intended to improve the quality, efficiency and safety of public service provision and support taxpayers confidence they are receiving value for money”.

So far, so good.

“This proposal is expected to support current priorities for the management of immigration into the UK”.

I have littered questions marks, the word “prejudice”, an exclamation mark and the word “tangentially” around that statement.

We would prefer to take these clauses out altogether, but the first of our amendments looks at the provision for expanding the requirements into the private sector. It is a probing amendment, and I hope that the Minister is aware of the questions that I intend to ask. If this is of such concern, why, in a service context where so many public services are provided on behalf of the Government by the private sector, does the Bill not immediately extend to services which are contracted out? Will there be changes to the requirements as they affect contractors? Has consultation taken place with the private sector? Will there be a single code of practice? Since so much is outsourced, it seems odd if work which is outsourced is not covered, but I wonder whether the private sector will be happy with this as a requirement. I am interested in the consultation.

Amendment 242G is on the code of practice, which under Clause 50 may make different provision for different purposes. I have suggested,

“and for different roles or descriptions of roles”.

It may well be that the Minister will confirm that that is within Clause 50(6) because there are clearly different things that people in the public sector do in different roles or may need to do. The impact assessment states that the code,

“will be flexible enough to account for the differing requirements and existing arrangements of different public sector bodies”,

but it would be good to have confirmation that the legislation allows for that.

Amendment 242J would require a review within five years. I ask the Committee to understand this amendment in the context of my initial remarks.

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Noble Lords will understand from the points that I have listed in the amendment the matters with which I am concerned:

“the extent and types of authority subject to the requirement; … the standard required; … procedures for complaints”—

it has been pointed out to me that it is sad that requirements are being put in place and that it is felt necessary to have a complaints procedure designed from the beginning—

“direct and indirect discrimination which has or may have arisen; and … the resources required to meet this requirement”.

The Race Equality Foundation says,

“the draft code is poorly drafted, poorly structured and … there is nothing to prevent users of public services making complaints on the basis of accent and appearance. These provisions may encourage, and semi-legitimise, racially-motivated harassment under the guise of challenging someone’s ability to speak ‘fluent’ English. There is already evidence on the greater likelihood for black and minority ethnic people to be subject to the disciplinary process in public services”.

It is obviously concerned about these requirements expanding that likelihood.

The Institute of Equality and Diversity Professionals was very moderate in its language:

“No amount of guidance in the draft Code of Practice can save what is an irredeemably unworkable scheme”.

It talks about:

“The opportunities for directly and indirectly discriminatory, and harassment, claims”,

and reminds us that harassment is a form of discrimination under EU equality law. It asks about the constitutional basis. I think I would ask about the evidence base.

The institute also points out that:

“The use of the terms ‘high standard of English’ … and ‘fluency’ indicate a ‘mother tongue’ proficiency, which is not permissible in EU law”.

Another of its comments says,

“these measures will leave public bodies open to extensive litigation, primarily on grounds of race and ethnic origins, but also on grounds of disability, in relation to … discrimination and harassment claims”.

I said—I think at Second Reading—that I regard the ability to communicate as important, indeed essential, in the public sector, as in all other parts of life, but I cannot be the only person in this Committee who has encountered someone whose English is perfect but who cannot make themselves understood.

Lord Rosser: I will listen with interest to the Minister’s response to my noble friend Lady Lister’s amendment. As far as I understand it, the Government will accept British Sign Language—or at least they are saying it is provided for in the code—but they do not wish to put that in the Bill. I will wait with interest to see why that is unnecessary or undesirable since I am not quite sure at the moment what the answer is.

I also want to pursue the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I am sure the Minister will put me right if I have misread this, but the language requirements refer to public sector workers. I take it that means that any private sector organisation with customer-facing roles will not be covered by the Bill. I ask the same question as the noble Baroness. Why is

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this being geared to the public sector alone? I do not know that I have particular enthusiasm for seeing it apply across the private sector since I have some of the reservations, subject to what the Minister may say, about the extent to which this could lead to some discrimination. No doubt the noble and learned Lord will explain how it is going to work. As I understand it, the definition of speaking fluent English is laid out in the Bill:

“For the purposes of this Part a person speaks fluent English if the person has a command of spoken English which is sufficient to enable the effective performance of the person’s role”.

Who will judge that and decide whether their English is sufficient? Is it open to somebody to complain that that criterion has not been met? If so, what then happens?

6.15 pm

On the issue of the provision appearing to apply only to the public sector, Network Rail is currently in the public sector but the Government are busily looking at whether they can flog it off. Network Rail is responsible for some of our major stations in London and therefore will have staff who meet the public and are involved in talking to and addressing them. Does it mean that we could start off with Network Rail being covered by the Bill but, if it is sold off, it would then cease to be covered by the Bill? That is, this provision is thought to be necessary when people are in the public sector but is no longer considered necessary if those same people doing the same job end up in the private sector.

Likewise, what happens in relation to the National Health Service? What happens if operations are currently conducted in the public sector in the National Health Service but then certain operations are put out to be undertaken in the private sector? Are we being told that this is a vital and necessary piece of legislation if the operation is carried out by the National Health Service in the public sector but it is not necessary if the same operation is outsourced to be dealt with within the private sector of the health service? Some clarification on those points would be much appreciated.

Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. Clearly some important issues are raised here. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, noted that there was some reference to this issue in the Conservative Party manifesto. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will correct me if I am wrong but it also featured in the Labour Party manifesto, so I would understand him to have a reasonable degree of insight into what is proposed here.

Lord Rosser: I am asking how the Government intend to apply this. It is their legislation.

Lord Keen of Elie: I fully understand the nature of the noble Lord’s inquiry; I was just pointing out that the rationale behind this legislation was recognised not only in the Conservative Party manifesto but in the Labour Party manifesto.

I begin by looking at Amendment 242, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I am glad to have the opportunity to reassure her and other noble Lords

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that the duty being imposed by this provision does not apply to individuals who communicate using British Sign Language. I believe it may help if I explain that it will not be the responsibility of individual members of staff to meet this duty; it will be the responsibility of public authorities, as the employers. I remind noble Lords that, as employers, public authorities have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for their staff. If reasonable, a British Sign Language interpreter would be provided. In addition, any worker or job applicant who communicates using British Sign Language must be considered for recruitment on a par with any other applicant.

To comply with the duty in Part 7, public authorities must ensure that the British Sign Language interpreters whom they employ, rather than the recipients of such a workplace adjustment, speak fluent English. Given that fluent spoken English is the reason the interpreter has been engaged, there should be no difficulty at all in public authorities meeting that duty. In those circumstances, I seek to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, about the position in regard to British Sign Language.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble and learned friend for a moment. What is the position of a member of the public who uses British Sign Language? My noble and learned friend says that provision is made for the authority worker who uses British Sign Language to be able to do their work in their office, but I am talking about a member of the public who goes to the public authority and his language is British Sign Language. There must be someone who can communicate with that person. I am not expecting everyone to have British Sign Language. One can use videoconferencing to deal with it, but there must be provision for members of the general public who use British sign language to communicate with appropriate people in the authority.

Lord Keen of Elie: In circumstances where there is provision for British Sign Language to be available, there will also be an English language interpreter available. Where a member of the public wishes to use or employ British Sign Language, they will, in circumstances where it is available, be able to do that, and the person communicating with them in a customer-facing role will, of course, be perfectly entitled to employ British Sign Language. The provisions of the Bill are not prescriptive. They are not saying that the only language that can be employed is English or Welsh. In circumstances where there is the ability to communicate in a customer-facing role by means of a different language, be it British Sign Language or otherwise, then it may perfectly properly be employed. Whether it will be available on each and every occasion when somebody arrives and is faced with a customer-facing role is a different matter altogether. Clearly, at present it is not invariably available.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I am not a lawyer, so I rise with some trepidation, but the Bill states:

“A public authority must ensure that each person who works for the public authority in a customer-facing role speaks fluent English”.

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I am very grateful to the Minister for the very clear statement he has made that this will not apply to British Sign Language. It may be that he is going to explain this, but why can that not be put in the Bill to remove all doubt?

Lord Keen of Elie: Our position is that that is simply not required. Where you have somebody in a customer-facing role who communicates by way of British Sign Language, they will have a British Sign Language interpreter available. It is the interpreter who will be required by the employer to be fluent in English. That is the situation that will apply.

Lord Swinfen: I am awfully sorry, but I do not entirely understand what the Minister is saying. I cannot see the difficulty in having British Sign Language speakers who are able to communicate with members of the public whose only language is British Sign Language. The Minister is saying that that is not necessary. It means that if I speak only British Sign Language, I would not be able to speak to anyone in the authority. That is not satisfactory. Either I am not understanding the Minister, or he is not explaining himself as well as a lawyer should.

Lord Keen of Elie: It appears that although we each purport to be speaking fluent English, we may not be communicating with each other as clearly as might be the case. In circumstances where a person employs British Sign Language and there is a customer-facing individual available to communicate with them in British Sign Language, the person communicating in British Sign Language will either have with them a British Sign Language interpreter or will be able to communicate in British Sign Language and speak fluent English.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I think there are two different debates going on. To pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the explanation given by the Minister about how this would work is, to me, intelligible, but it does not reflect the words in the Bill because it suggests that the person who is working a customer-facing role is the interpreter, not the person who is doing the substantive job. If the Government’s concern is that the drafting is not invented here, I hope that they can find a way of explaining that there are two roles in the situation which the noble Baroness explained.

Lord Keen of Elie: I wonder whether I may respond briefly to that and then make a further observation. In circumstances where somebody is in a customer-facing role and uses only British Sign Language, they will, as a matter of practice and pursuant to the Equality Act 2010, have available to them a British Sign Language interpreter. So they will be communicating in a customer-facing role, together with a British Sign Language interpreter.

I do not accept the interpretation of the clause that has been advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, but, having regard to the considerations of time, if nothing else, I will take this matter away and reflect upon the observations that have been made.

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Lord Shipley: I thank the Minister for that. I think that that would help because I had not understood what the problem was with making this amendment to the Bill. I hope that, if we come back to this matter on Report, we may have some greater clarity on it because it seems to me that that would solve the problem.

Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. He will appreciate that I, too, am concerned about whether it is necessary for such a provision to appear in the Bill. Our view is that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, is an important one but that it is already accommodated by the terms of the Bill. However, as I said, I will reflect on that.

I turn to the observations made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in addressing Amendments 242C, 242G and 242J regarding the implementation of the various duties, as well as the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on the question of public sector workers.

Beginning with Amendment 242C and the question of public and private sector workers, I shall seek to allay the concerns of the noble Baroness but will resist the amendment. We have no desire at this time to lay regulations before further consultation. At present, the Government are committed to carrying out an open consultation before calling on the reserve powers to expand the scope of the duty to the private and third sectors. That is why the provision is expressed in its present form.

The government response to the open consultation, which is scheduled to be made available to noble Lords for our Report stage discussion, will provide preliminary views on this matter. At present, the responses are quite balanced. Many welcome the expansion specifically for the safety and comfort of patients in the social care sector, for example. Others are understandably concerned in case any costs of enhanced recruitment practices have to be passed on to public authorities which are contracting. We do not accept that such costs will increase. Public authorities can simply make job descriptions more specific; there is no need to increase costs. So we do not consider it necessary at this stage to contemplate the proposal in Amendment 242C.

Regarding the noble Baroness’s second amendment, Amendment 242G, I seek to provide reassurance that the principal focus of the code of practice underpinning this duty will be to assist public authorities in setting language expectations for different job roles. I hope, therefore, that she will agree that there is no need to provide for this in the Bill, as it will be an element of the code of practice.

I am conscious of the variations that may occur so far as fluency in language is concerned. Indeed, as a Scot, it is a matter of particular concern to me as well. Clearly fluency will be determined by the employer—and, in this context, by the employer alone.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, to be absolutely precise about this, I hear what is intended regarding the code of practice but can the Minister confirm that,

“different provision for different purposes”,

encompasses my point about different roles? That is the wording in the Bill.

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Lord Keen of Elie: I can indeed confirm that. That is the purpose of the provisions in the code of practice.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful.

Lord Keen of Elie: I quite understand the spirit of the noble Baroness’s third amendment, Amendment 242J. The Government intend to review the implementation of this policy. We will commit to doing so in the government response to the recent consultation on the draft code of practice.

On further inspection, the details of the report described in the amendment appear to impose a significant reporting burden on public authorities. The Government’s review will certainly look to cover the principles of the recommendation, such as setting proportionate standards for job roles and avoiding cases of discrimination, because these were the main areas of concern voiced by respondents to the recent open consultation. So these points will most certainly be addressed in that context. Regarding the position of Network Rail, if there are public sector workers there they will be covered by the initial provisions. As they move into the private sector, they will be covered by the further provisions that will be brought forward following consultation. I hope that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I do not understand that there are any provisions regarding the National Health Service in the Bill. In these circumstances, I invite noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Amendment 241B agreed.

6.30 pm

Amendments 241C to 241E

Moved by Lord Bates

241C: Clause 47, page 45, line 31, at end insert—

“( ) in Northern Ireland, as an agency worker within the meaning of the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 (SR 2011/350) in respect of whom the public authority is the hirer within the meaning of those regulations,”

241D: Clause 47, page 45, line 35, at beginning insert “in relation to England and Wales and Scotland,”

241E: Clause 47, page 45, line 36, after “1996,” insert—

“( ) in relation to Northern Ireland, has the meaning given by Article 236(3) of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (SI 1996/1919 (NI 16)),”

Amendments 241C to 241E agreed.

Amendment 242 not moved.

Clause 47, as amended, agreed.

Clause 48: Meaning of “public authority”

Amendments 242A and 242B

Moved by Lord Bates

242A: Clause 48, page 46, line 17, after “Part” insert “in relation to those functions”

242B: Clause 48, page 46, line 20, at end insert—

“(4A) A person who exercises functions in relation to Wales is a public authority for the purposes of this Part in relation to those

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functions only if and to the extent that those functions relate to a matter which is outside the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales.

(4B) A person who exercises functions in relation to Northern Ireland is a public authority for the purposes of this Part in relation to those functions only if and to the extent that those functions relate to an excepted matter.

(4C) In subsection (4B) “Northern Ireland” and “excepted matter” have the same meanings as in the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”

Amendments 242A and 242B agreed.

Clause 48, as amended, agreed.

Clause 49: Power to expand meaning of person working for public authority

Amendment 242C not moved.

Amendments 242D to 242F

Moved by Lord Bates

242D: Clause 49, page 46, line 42, leave out “or”

242E: Clause 49, page 47, line 1, at beginning insert “in England and Wales or Scotland,”

242F: Clause 49, page 47, line 3, at end insert “, or

( ) in Northern Ireland, as an agency worker within the meaning of the Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 (SR 2011/350) in respect of whom the contractor is the hirer within the meaning of those regulations.”

Amendments 242D to 242F agreed.

Clause 49, as amended, agreed.

Clause 50: Duty to issue codes of practice

Amendment 242G not moved.

Clause 50 agreed.

Clause 51 agreed.

Clause 52: Application of Part to Wales

Amendment 242H

Moved by Lord Bates

242H: Clause 52, page 48, line 5, leave out “in both England and” and insert “outside Wales and in”

Amendment 242H agreed.

Clause 52, as amended, agreed.

Amendment 242J not moved.

Clause 53: Interpretation of Part

Amendment 242K

Moved by Lord Bates

242K: Clause 53, page 48, line 18, at end insert—

““Wales” has the same meaning as in the Government of Wales Act 2006.”

Amendment 242K agreed.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed.

Clause 54 agreed.

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Clause 55: Immigration skills charge

Amendment 242L

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

242L: Clause 55, page 49, line 12, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under this section must provide for exemption from a charge in the case of an application made—

(a) to fill a skills gap directly concerned with the provision of education;

(b) by an institution whose primary function is the provision of education or skills training;

(c) to fill a skills gap directly concerned with the provision of health services;

(d) by an institution whose primary function is the provision of health services.”

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I recognise that it is late. This is an important proposal on which the House of Commons spent precisely five minutes during its wind-up in Committee. I have another important amendment still to come, Amendment 242S on the tier 1 investor charge, to which I attach a great deal of importance. I have received quite a lot of outside support and some outside briefing on both these amendments. I am conscious that time is short, but these are important issues. It is always the case that the last clauses of a Bill get the least attention.

The proposal for an immigration skills charge is a major innovation, not yet fully developed. It was first floated in a speech by the Prime Minister two weeks after the May election, less than nine months ago. He said,

“we will reform our immigration and labour market rules – reducing the demand for skilled workers and cracking down on those who exploit low-skilled workers. That starts with training our own people.

For too long we’ve had a shortage of workers in certain roles. Engineers, nurses, teachers, chefs – we haven’t had enough Brits trained in these areas and companies have had to fill the gaps with people from overseas. With Sajid Javid as the new business secretary we’re going to get far better at training our own people. This involves creating 3 million more apprenticeships – and we will consult on getting the businesses that use foreign labour to help fund them through a new visa levy.

And today I can announce we will consult on another big change. As we improve the training of British workers, we should – over time – be able to lower the number of skilled workers we have to bring in from elsewhere. So as we embark on this massive skills drive, we will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to advise on significantly reducing the level of economic migration from outside the EU”.

Note that the Prime Minister emphasised that the Government would focus on a massive skills drive and consult on another big change that would follow. He noted that some of the skills in greatest shortage are for teachers and nurses—he could have added doctors. However, in spite of an earlier reference in his speech to “a whole government approach” to the immigration issue, he does not note that these are public sector jobs, for whose training the Government lay down targets and conditions, and for which government departments such as health and education bear some responsibility. There is no mention of these departments in the speech—BIS is the only one mentioned.

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The Government asked the Migration Advisory Committee to advise on how to take this loosely defined idea forward. The Migration Advisory Committee report was published on 19 January 2016, just three weeks ago, after the Commons had completed its consideration of the Bill. It addresses the issue of the introduction of a skills charge in the context of a review of the entire tier 2 visas category. It recommends raising the minimum salary thresholds, limiting the period in which skills shortages can be declared for any particular sector, and introducing a charge at a level it suggests should be between £500 and £2,000 per year—I emphasise “per year”. The Government intend this to be a perpetual charge, and they have chosen £1,000 for every year that someone from outside the EEA is employed by a British company, university, school or hospital. One university has estimated that this will cost it £800,000 a year; others suggest higher figures, particularly for universities with global reputations in science and engineering. The CBI has warned that it will impose additional charges on top of the new apprenticeship levy on innovative firms.

This new MAC report also notes in paragraph 1.25 that,

“the public sector may require time to transition to the new salary thresholds”,

since it is in the public sector that recruits from outside the EEA are paid less than their UK equivalents, rather than more. The MAC’s “strongest recommendation”,

“is for any changes to be kept under active review”.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that James Brokenshire, in a speech in London in late January, declared that the Government are “in listening mode” on this proposal, which, as we all know, is code for saying that Whitehall has not yet worked out what it means and still needs advice from the outside.

So why are we being presented with such a blunt proposal today? Why have the Government not consulted further on its implications for the public sector, above all for the health service, universities and schools? The Prime Minister said that he was going to do so, but it has not yet happened. Have the Government yet consulted with the NHS and the education sector on the likely impact of this charge? Have the Treasury and the Department of Health taken into account the impact of this charge on the NHS budget once it is applied, or on BIS and the DfE, given the implications for the education sector? Will the Government allow the public sector time to manage the transition or are they going to impose it, just like that?

Overall, the Government are relying on the market to provide the 3 million additional apprenticeships they are promising, with the penalty of the apprenticeship levies to spur it on. The massive skills drive that the Prime Minister promised is to be left to the market; it neither starts nor finishes with the Government, in spite of what the Prime Minister says.

The Explanatory Notes to the Bill suggest that the Prime Minister’s creation of 3 million additional apprenticeships will depend almost entirely on this charge. It says:

“The primary purpose of this clause is to increase funding available for apprenticeships in the UK and address the current skills gap in the UK workforce”.

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How many apprenticeships will the estimated £240 million to be raised from this charge pay for? Will it get anywhere near funding 3 million apprenticeships? Business, not unnaturally, sees the double imposition of the levy and the immigration skills charge as adding to the burdens on the private sector, without a coherent government approach to labour market policy that is linked to education, at all levels, and to training. In the public sector, the Government have lifted the cap on numbers in nurse training while, at the same time, ending nursing bursaries, and so deterring potential nurses from entering the profession. They have done that at the same time as they recognise the need to increase their numbers.

There are particular issues for UK universities and for medicine—and I thank Universities UK for the brief that it gave me. The global reputation and quality of UK universities and medical research depends on the international circulation of academic and medical careers, with British students spending time studying and working abroad, and overseas students and professors coming to work in the UK. I have visited universities in several countries as an academic where the majority of the staff began their careers as local students, moved on to conduct graduate research there, and were then appointed to the faculty, without much, if any, intellectual challenge from exposure to other institutions or countries. None of these universities is anywhere in the global rankings, but our world-class universities depend on scholars coming in and out. The Prime Minister loudly declared that he wanted to attract the “best and the brightest” from outside the UK; imposing this charge is more likely to keep them out.

This charge will obstruct the circulation of scholars into the UK, and impose additional burdens on university budgets. It will have a particularly adverse effect on the STEM subjects, where over 15% of current staff are from outside the EU. But then, a substantial proportion of UK citizens in these disciplines in British universities have studied and taught overseas in their turn. Have the Government thought through how far this principle of penalties and charging might extend? Should British universities receive credits, say of £1,000 a year in perpetuity, for attracting British scholars with American PhDs back to this country? My son has just taken up a post at a UK university, having benefitted from American funding for his entire graduate education and two post-doctoral fellowships. Should that benefit to the UK as he returns generate a financial credit for the British university that has hired him, or does the Home Office assume that the traffic in academic excellence is all one way—foreigners into Britain? If we are so concerned about the nationality of those employed in the higher education and medical sectors, should the Government also impose fines on UK-trained doctors who then opt to leave Britain to practice elsewhere? Would the British Government be happy if a future Republican Administration in the United States were to impose charges on American institutions that sought to recruit from the UK?

I see no evidence that this has yet been thought through. Some free market economists, no doubt from some right-wing think tank, appear to have convinced the Home Office that the price mechanism will sort

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everything out, without the need for more active government intervention. That is as daft an idea as imposing central London economic rents on core government buildings in Whitehall, to be then taken off existing departmental budgets—but then the Government have just said that they are going to do that as well. What is even more striking is that the Government do not propose to apply the price mechanism to tier 1 investor visas, in spite of recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee, where super-rich foreigners would no doubt bid happily against each other for the privileges offered. We will come to that in a later amendment.

We therefore offer in this group a number of amendments which protect the public sector, require consultation with those affected by the charge, and require, as the MAC report suggested, the earliest possible review. We particularly emphasise that it would be idiotic to impose the charge on teachers in shortage subjects in the UK, given the Government expect that domestic demand for education and training in shortage sectors will have to rise, and when funding for further education is already being cut savagely. Two weeks ago, I met three secondary head teachers who told me that maths and computer technology teachers are so hard to recruit that they are looking to Australia to find them, without yet realising, of course, that that would bring an extra charge on their budgets of £1,000 per maths teacher for the foreseeable future.

This clause attracted almost no attention in the Commons. In any event, the Government had not provided the information on which to assess the proposal. That makes it even more appropriate to test the opinion of the House on Report, unless the Government can come up with their own substantive amendments and a good deal more explanation of what this means in practice. I beg to move.

6.45 pm

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, in relation to skills, I draw the Committee’s attention to the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, on training in the private sector. Her report found that there had been a substantial fall in what she described as “serious” training—that is off-site training—since 2008. It is clearly necessary that action should be taken and encouragement should be provided by the Government to tackle that. That said, I do not think I have any comment on this. I listened with interest to the introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace.

Lord Rosser: The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has made some very interesting points on this issue. I wait with interest to see what the Minister has to say in response. I would be grateful if he would respond on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, raised about consultation on the implications for the public sector.

He mentioned the health service and universities. It will obviously be no secret that representations have been received from universities and health service organisations about the implications of this proposal. Indeed, I understand that some universities have taken it up directly with government. Will the Minister set out the extent to which the consultation covered public

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sector organisations and say what responses were received? Clearly, their line is over the additional costs it is likely to cause the service in question. Indeed, universities will say that it is causing additional costs which might lead to them not necessarily being able to recruit the best people, and obviously part of the role of a university is to train people and increase their skills through higher education. It would seem a bit distorted if the purpose of the levy was to enable money to be provided for apprenticeships but, in so doing, it managed to weaken the ability of universities to provide the best people to provide the education which in itself is raising the skills of people who will be needed in the labour market in the future.

Lord Bates: My Lords, Clause 55 provides a power to raise the charge, but details about the rate and scope of the immigration skills charge will be set out in regulations to be laid before the introduction of the charge. At that point there will be an opportunity for an informed debate on the details within the regulations. There are likely to be legal implications of introducing exemptions which will require careful consideration.

The Migration Advisory Committee published its review of tier 2 migration on 19 January, and the Government need time fully to consider the evidence about the likely impact of different rates on different types of organisation. As well as the Migration Advisory Committee’s findings and recommendations, we wish to consider other evidence from stakeholders and any legal implications before recommending the rate at which the immigration skills charge could be set and whether any exemptions should be applied.