Nationality and Borders Bill 2022: Bishop of Chelmsford speaks on amendments relating to visa penalties

On 8th March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Nationality and Borders Bill in the 3rd day of its report stage. The Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in the debate, raising concerns regarding amendments tabled by Baroness Williams of Trafford which would “allow visa penalties to be extended to countries that present a risk to international peace and security, or whose actions lead or are likely to lead to armed conflict or a breach of humanitarian law.”

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for his comments and I will add a few further thoughts.

I appreciate that the intent of these proposed new clauses is to bring additional sanction pressure on Russia, and perhaps also other states which threaten peace and security. However, I ask whether there are any concerns that, in practice, this provision may make it more difficult for a critic of, for example, the Putin regime, to reach the UK in safety. Such a person—perhaps one of those involved in the courageous protests against the current war—might seek to reunite with family in the UK for their own safety. They would require a valid visa, not least since the Bill makes it so much harder for those arriving without a visa to apply for refugee status. Is the Minister at all concerned that additional costs and barriers to obtaining a visa may invertedly hurt people seeking to escape authoritarian regimes, and who would be eligible for a visa to come here, more than it would actually hurt the regime itself?

I note the provision in these amendments “for exceptions or exemptions”, but I would appreciate a comment from the Minister on how these might work in a case such as I have outlined.

I arrived in this country seeking refuge and safety shortly after the Islamic Revolution swept through Iran, many years ago now. I was fortunate quickly to be given refugee status and to receive a welcome that, in time, has allowed me to begin contributing back to the society that provided me with a new home. However, I cannot help wondering what the impact might have been had these amendments been part of the law then. After all, I came from a country that was undoubtedly regarded as something of an international pariah, a risk to peace and security in the Middle East and, arguably, more widely. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response and I hope to receive some reassurances.

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con): On the question from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, many of the sanctions that the Government are imposing on Russia do not target specific individuals: for example, action against financial institutions. However, the aggregate impact on the Russian state and the ending of normal relations applies pressure to and imposes costs on the Putin regime in response to its abhorrent war in Ukraine. It cannot be business as usual, but I totally accept the right reverend Prelate’s point about the impact on ordinary people.


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