Defiant Lords in dismay as their Immigration Law amendments are voted down
On Monday 10th July, Newspaper headlines reported that the House of Lords had imposed 20 defeats to the Illegal Immigration Bill and this would render the bill completely altered. However, on returning to the commons for a vote, one by one, the 18 House of Lords amendments which had left the government’s Illegal migration bill supposedly in tatters, were overturned on Tuesday night 11th July, in an overwhelming show of support for the government. Sensationally, MPs paced backwards and forwards along the divisional lobby to cast their formal votes – a record 18 times in one session.
MPs hold their noses and vote with the government
While several backbench Conservative MPs, privately supported a number of the amendments and the ideals behind them, they were said to have held their noses while voting with the government, if only to ensure that the bill became law as soon as possible.
In the preceding debate in the Lords, former Prime Minister, Theresa May was clear that many of the components of the new bill were a direct challenge to a strategy of introducing the UK’s modern slavery laws that she had herself adopted whilst Home Secretary. She spoke with passion about the failure of the bill to afford protection for genuine asylum seekers. She argued that the bill as a whole imposes penalties and criminalises those fleeing from modern slavery and crucially that it fails to protect children. She said the bill, rather than providing protection would ‘will consign more people to slavery’.
The 'subtext is ... stop all claims full stop!'
‘This bill is not just written to stop the boats, it covers all illegal migration and its unwritten subtext is the stop certain victims’ claims of modern slavery bill…not stop false claims of modern slavery, but stop all claims full stop and that is where I depart from the government’
Theresa May went on to claim that under the bill, a woman who was a victim of modern slavery, would remain trapped and without support. She accused the government of not caring ‘whether you’ve been in a living hell…[or] the victim of crime’
The Lords will have the bill handed back to them in accordance with protocol for them to effectively lick their wounds and find compromise before it is re-presented for further consideration to the Commons next week on Monday.
Government forced to make some concessions
The Lords rebels will be able to take some consolation from the few U-turns made by the government to appease a growing number of rebellious backbench Commons MPs, which include the decision that the removal of migrants crossing the Channel will not apply retrospectively and also that the first-tier tribunal will now be able to grant immigration bail after eight days rather than 28, to unaccompanied children detained for the purpose of their removal.
Crucially, it is the government’s full intention to place the bill on the statute books before the parliamentary summer recess on 22nd July.