Bill successfully passes through Parliament today and will shortly receive royal assent
The Nationality and Borders Bill has successfully concluded its passage through Parliament today and is now set to become law.
With time running short before the current session of Parliament is due to end, the Bill was back in the House of Lords today following yesterday's continuation of ping pong with the Commons.
Lord Coaker said today, however, that the Labour Party had made the decision that it would not be appropriate for the Lords to send the Bill back to the Commons for a fourth time.
With the opposition deciding to abstain and defer to the elected House, the Government comfortably won the only vote held today by 212 votes to 157 and the Bill was passed by the Lords.
The Bill is now ready to receive Royal Assent and will shortly become law.
In the House of Lords today, a single vote was held on Baroness Chakrabarti's amendment requiring that the Bill be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Refugee Convention. The amendment also required courts and tribunals to make a declaration if they are determining a matter related to the Bill which cannot be interpreted in a way that is compatible with the Convention.
Chakrabarti noted that the Government had yesterday rejected her amendment, with Tom Pursglove MP, the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, telling the Commons: "It is simply unnecessary, inappropriate and unconstitutional for the courts to have a duty to make declarations of incompatibility in circumstances where questions of compliance have already been determined by Parliament."
Expressing concern that the Government position had now moved to not wanting any judicial scrutiny of its compliance with the Convention, Baroness Chakrabarti asked: "We may be only a revising second chamber, and I do recognise that, but if not to defend the rule of law, what are we for?"
As he did yesterday, crossbench peer Lord Pannick QC spoke to say that the Bill would breach the UK's international obligations under the Refugee Convention. Pannick added that it was unconstitutional that the Government was trying to prevent the judiciary from giving the correct answer to the question as to whether the Bill is in compliance with the Convention.
"The Government are inviting Parliament to act in breach of this country's international obligations and to prevent the judiciary from passing judgment on that question, contrary to the views of UNHCR, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, your Lordships' Constitution Committee, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, Amnesty International and so many other informed bodies," Lord Pannick said.
Lord Kerr commented that the Commons appeared to be treating the Lords with contempt. He explained: "Of course, the elected Chamber must have the last word, but its view must surely be informed by an understanding of the considerations that led the revising Chamber to propose the changes it did. If I am right, are the Government, with all due respect, not cheating when they blandly assert no incompatibility the Convention, when they make no attempt to refute—but simply ignore—this House's demonstration that there is clear incompatibility, and when they allow minimal time to discuss an issue that is so important to our reputation as a law-abiding country?"
With just 35 (out of a possible 167) Labour peers voting to support Baroness Chakrabarti's amendment, the Government successfully rejected it by a margin of 55 votes.
Speaking for the Labour Party, Lord Coaker said he agreed with the amendment, but the Bill was now at the point in the parliamentary process where sending it back to the House of Commons a fourth time would not be the appropriate way forward.
"Noble Lords will have to make their own judgment, but that is the judgment we have made. The battle will carry on and the campaign for a proper refugee system will carry on. That campaign will take place not only in this Parliament but in the various communities up and down the country, as we fight to remain the global champion that we have always been, and to offer asylum to those who deserve it and need it," Coaker added.
No further motions were moved to be voted upon and the Bill was finally agreed by both Houses.
In response to the passing of the Bill, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Twitter: "UNHCR regrets that final amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill were rejected. The Bill will now become law. The new law undermines established international refugee protection laws and practices and risks causing very real suffering to vulnerable people."
UNHCR added: "The Refugee Convention is as relevant as ever and continues to uphold the rights of refugees. Even after the Nationality and Borders Bill becomes law, UNHCR will continue to advocate against this damaging legislation and to protect refugee rights in the UK and around the world. Refugees should not be criminalised for seeking sanctuary in the UK. UNHCR will continue to argue for the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless people, regardless of how they arrive. Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right."
[Update, 28 April 2022: The Home Office announced this afternoon that the Bill has now received Royal Assent and become law. Measures in the new Nationality and Borders Act 2022 will be implemented over the coming months and into next year.]