Bid to stop Illegal Migration Bill defeated in House of Lords

Justin Welby shares thoughts on Illegal Migration Bill

A bid by the Liberal Democrats to stop the Illegal Migration Bill in its tracks has been heavily defeated in the House of Lords.

Peers rejected by 179 votes to 76, majority 103, a so-called fatal motion to the Bill, which aims to stop small boat Channel crossings. Lord Paddick, who proposed the fatal motion, said: “This Bill is all pain and no gain. This is a question of principle.”

Former Brexit chief negotiator and minister Lord Frost said he resented accusations that the Illegal Migration Bill was immoral or evil. He told the upper chamber: “One obvious reality is that tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people could establish an asylum claim if they could get to this country, and many want to.

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Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury and other noble lords were right to place the Bill in its moral context.

“Proceeding with this Bill is the moral course. We must put a stop to the dangerous Channel crossings, putting lives at risk and splitting families.

“We must end the callous exploitation of vulnerable people by the people smugglers and we must uphold the law and ensure fair play for those who abide by our immigration rules.”

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has gone head-to-head with the Government after condemning its plans to tackle the small boats crisis as “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.

But the intervention by the Most Rev Justin Welby sparked criticism of the church leader at Westminster, who was told neither “handwringing or bell ringing” will solve the misery of the channel crossings. Ministers have also said the top cleric was “wrong”.

The exchanges came during a lengthy, impassioned debate lasting more than 10 hours on the Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Lords.

Former Brexit chief negotiator and minister Lord Frost had said he resented accusations that the Illegal Migration Bill was immoral or evil.

He told the upper chamber: “One obvious reality is that tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people could establish an asylum claim if they could get to this country, and many want to. If we acquiesce in illegal arrivals the numbers will continue to grow. If we open new legal routes they will be quickly overwhelmed and we will be back to the illegal ones.”

Lord Frost said: “We are told by some that to enshrine these principles in a Bill is in some way shameful, inhuman, immoral or even evil. I disagree with that and I actually rather resent it.”

He said: “I can’t agree that we are not living up to our moral responsibility.”

In response, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who had earlier called the Bill “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”, pretended to slap his own wrists.

Lord Frost said: “It’s the job of the Government and the British people to decide where the line should be drawn and this Bill draws one element of it. There’s nothing immoral in that, or if you think there is you must think it’s immoral for British governments to pay proper attention to the views of their own citizens.”

However, tory former immigration minister Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate had launched a blistering attack on the Government’s small boats legislation and questioned why more is not being done to catch the people smugglers, who were the “real criminals”.

He said: “The ways chosen by the Government to alleviate the undoubted suffering of persecuted people fleeing tyranny will actually have the opposite outcomes to those expected. And in implementation will both break solemn laws and treaties and provide greater sustenance to the real criminals, the people traffickers and smugglers who should be our first targets.”

The former MEP added: “Why are we not doing more to catch these real criminals, some of whom are actually here in the UK?”

Lord Kirkhope went on: “There are various ways in which we can bring about change to protect lives and our borders at the same time.

“That does not include breaking international law, leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, curtailing the powers of the UK courts, criminalising innocent victims and harming, as a result, our race and community relations in the UK, which a lot of us have worked so hard over many years to improve.”

Tory MP Chris Skidmore also hit out at the Illegal Migration Bill, claiming that it has “over-promise and under-delivery written all over it”.

He told ITV’s Peston programme he had serious concerns that it would put the UK in breach of international law. “Churchill would be turning in his grave, if he thought we were going to be taking the UK out of the processes of international law.

“And that’s just simply something I’m not prepared to do, which is why I’ve not participated in the bill, because I don’t think the bill is necessary, it won’t solve the problem. We should be looking elsewhere for tackling it.

“The worst thing in politics is to over-promise and under-deliver, and this has over-promise and under-delivery written all over it.”

Labour’s Emily Thornberry said her party should repeal the Illegal Migration Bill if it takes power after the next general election.

“I think we should repeal it,” she told ITV’s Peston programme. We’ll see what happens. We have been completely against it. We have voted against it in every way. We have tried to amend it, we’ve tried to make it better.

“We’ve tried to knock the edges off. There’s so much legislation that we disagree with. If we spend all our time repealing Conservative legislation, we won’t be able to put forward our positive agenda.

“But yeah, I mean, this will be on my list of things to repeal.”

But Tory peer Lord Jackson of Peterborough said. It is “dispiriting” for leaders of the Church of England to “mischaracterise” supporters of the Illegal Immigration Bill as “morally deficient”,

Former MP Lord Jackson, who described himself as an Anglican, made his comments after the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier branded the Bill “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.

Lord Jackson said: “I agree with the bishops that we need to legislate with compassion, but those who support the Bill are no less caring or empathetic to the real-world horrors of modern slavery and people-trafficking.

“And I have to say, frankly, as an Anglican, I find dispiriting that the leaders of my own church, who were silent over the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration should seek to mischaracterise those of us who have the courage to support these bold measures as morally deficient – that is not the case.”

Backing the Illegal Migration Bill in the Lords, former Labour MP and Brexit supporter Baroness Hoey argued the UK had to send a signal it was “not an open door”.

The non-affiliated peer said: “I think it is legitimate to say that our country has lost control of our own borders.

“We have seen some of these new arrivals – not many but some – have been identified as a terrorist threat and many have disappeared and we have no idea where they have gone to or what they are up to.

“I think the security of our own country must be a priority of Government, so must the social cohesion of our communities.

“Moving hundreds of mainly young men… into areas where they will not be able to intermix is a recipe for problems.”

She added: “Only tough and unambiguous legislation will stand any chance of succeeding in dissuading people from risking their lives by jumping into dinghies and heading for Britain in the expectation that once here they will be permitted to stay.

“We have to send a signal that we are not an open door and we will not continue to allow the industry of lawyers making millions from the whole asylum system to continue.”

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