On 27th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Immigration Rules and Statements of Changes to them. A Motion to Regret the Statements was moved by Lord Green of Deddington, though not put to a vote. His Motion read:
“That this House regrets that the Statements of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC813, HC1043 and HC1248), published respectively on 22 October 2020, 10 December 2020 and 4 March, do not provide clear and comprehensible descriptions of the changes proposed, nor of their likely effect. Special attention drawn by the Secondary Legislation Committee, 33rd and 40th Reports, Session 2019–21.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for securing this important debate on his Motion to Regret. Last year, several Members of your Lordships’ House cautioned against the major extension of the Government’s capacity to make law with minimal recourse to Parliament in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act. Today, at the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and not of Her Majesty’s Government, we have 90 minutes to examine three statutory instruments relating to the Immigration Rules, one of which runs to 507 pages. All three were subject to the negative resolution, which involved little or no scrutiny of such important areas of life. Your Lordships’ House last defeated Her Majesty’s Government by praying against a negative resolution 21 years ago. Is the Minister satisfied with the level of scrutiny that these statutory instruments have received? Would she agree with me that it would have been better to publish them first in draft and to seek the views of both Houses in a debate?
On 2nd December 2020 the Bishop of St Albans asked a question in the Lords during exchanges on a question from Lord Alton about the announcement by the Ethiopian Government on 30 November about military operations in the northern Tigray region:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: Prior to the conflict, Tigray was a safe haven for Eritrean refugees afraid to return home because of fear of persecution. With Eritrea’s rumoured involvement in the conflict against the TPLF, what assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the validity of claims that the Eritrean military are forcing refugees into trucks and abducting them back to Eritrea?
On 25th November the Bishop of Durham received written answers to questions on the resumption of the refugee resettlement scheme:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 28 October (HL9221), what plans they have to ensure that once the refugee resettlement schemes are resumed, the commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable refugees through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme will be fulfilled, in addition to the new Global Resettlement Scheme commitment of 5,000 per year. [HL10217] Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks about plans for restarting refugee resettlement scheme”
On 10th November the House of Lords considered the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Lord Dubs pressed again an amendment on child refugees and family reunion, his earlier amendment to the Bill having been rejected in a vote in the House of Commons. The Bishop of Southwark spoke in support of the amendment. Lord Dubs did not press it to a vote, accepting some concessions from the Government in its place.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I speak in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. In doing so, I speak not only on my account but also in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who is locked down in the north-east and therefore, because of the procedures for consideration of Commons amendments, is unable to speak on this amendment, although that had been very much his intention.
Family life and kin relationships are vital in many parts of the world to ensure survival. Even in the UK, family means the difference between misery, destitution and poor mental health and a life where, even in the most difficult circumstances, there is practical care, support and love. Thus, I, too, welcome the Government’s steps towards ensuring safe and legal routes, including the commitment in case of a no-deal Brexit, to pursue bilateral negotiations on arrangements for family reunion, which I trust they will seek to ensure are equivalent to the Dublin regulations. I welcome the Minister’s commitments and await with interest her further comments following what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, just said.
On 29th October Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale asked the Government, “following the deaths of at least four people in the English Channel, what steps they are taking to protect asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking who are fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the UK.”. The Bishop of Bristol asked a follow-up question:
On 28th October the Bishop of Durham received a written answer to four questions on refugee resettlement:
The Lord Bishop of Durham:
(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 5 October (HL Deb, col 407), whether they have revised their aim of resettling 5,000 refugees in 2020/21 under the UK’s new resettlement scheme as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; and, if so, what is the revised aim for resettlement this year. [HL9220]
(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 14 September (HL7752), what discussions they have held with local authorities about their capacity to restart refugee resettlement as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; and whether any local authorities have confirmed that they are ready to restart resettlement. [HL9221]
(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the final 232 refugees within the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme will be resettled in the UK when it is safe to do so. [HL9222]
On 27th October 2020 the Bishop of Coventry received written answers to questions on refugees from Myanmar and support for Rohingya communities in Southeast Asia:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to provide (1) funding for, and (2) technical assistance, to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Trust Fund for Humanitarian Relief Efforts to promote regional cooperation for states addressing irregular migration from Myanmar. [HL9119]