The Government’s decision to implement the Rwanda policy by using a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been criticised today by a House of Lords Committee report as ‘unacceptable’.  

Read PLP’s written evidence to the House of Lords International Agreements Committee 

The Lords International Agreements Committee said the MoU approach undermined scrutiny of a policy that has ‘far reaching consequences’ for people’s rights. 

Echoing concerns raised by several witnesses to the Committee’s inquiry, including the Public Law Project, the report said: 

“It is unacceptable that the Government should be able to use prerogative powers to agree important arrangements with other states that have serious human rights implications without any scrutiny by Parliament.” 

“In choosing to conclude the agreement as an MoU, the UK Government has also avoided any meaningful parliamentary scrutiny.” 

Arabella Lang, PLP’s Head of Research said: 

“The Rwanda policy is highly controversial. It involves sending very vulnerable people who seek our protection from persecution to have their asylum claims considered in a far-away country with a concerning track record on human rights. Ultimately whether the Government had used a Memorandum of Understanding or a treaty, if a policy denies access to justice or results in a violation of rights, it is unlawful.  

“The UK has agreed to uphold international legal standards on the protection of migrants and refugees. The Committee’s inquiry and report is a timely reminder that the individuals targeted by the Rwanda policy have rights which must be legally enforceable. 

“The Committee’s report supports Parliamentary democracy and the principle that policy and international agreements that affect individual rights should be scrutinised by Parliament and not be left to Government alone.” 

The Committee report consistently echoed the concerns and recommendations made by PLP, and noted that: 

“Public Law Project made several recommendations about how Parliament should scrutinise MoUs in future. It suggested that any international instrument that engages individual rights should be published and submitted for scrutiny by Parliament before it comes into force, whatever its form; and that for MoUs with significant implications for rights or domestic legislation, the Government should seek to include a provision that they will enter into effect on a future date, to allow time for scrutiny.” 

“The Public Law Project also stated that, in the longer term, the Government should work with other countries towards agreeing a clear international instrument spelling out what types of international arrangements should be MoUs, and which should be treaties.”

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