Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…How Lib Dem Lords are making the horrible Immigration Bill a little better

This is my third attempt at writing this piece. Events have been moving quickly on the Immigration Bill as the Government tries its hardest to push it through before the end of the session.

Last night the House of Lords got the Bill back from the Commons who discussed it the previous night.

The debate there concentrated on the amendment that would put into legislation the call for the UK to offer sanctuary to 3000 unaccompanied child refugees who have already arrived in Europe.

Of course the Government does not need legislation to do this, but it seems the force of votes in Parliament is required.

That vote was defeated by a narrow majority in the Commons and it was left to us in the Lords yesterday to reinstate it, inflicting another heavy Government defeat. This gives the Commons – and those Tories who talk of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ – another chance to do the right thing.

Apart from this amendment we also won votes on putting a 28 day time limit on immigration detention of and restricting the detention of pregnant women. Detention should be imposed only in the most exceptional circumstances, and the calculation of the time limits gives too much wriggle room.  Safeguards were also inserted similar to those which apply to children which we insisted went into legislation during the Coalition Government.

We will keep pushing the Government to offer concessions at our end and I’m sure my colleagues at the Commons end will passionately make the case for these causes when they debate it next week.

Sadly, we were unable to achieve the amendment that would have given permission to work to asylum seekers who are still waiting on a decision on their application after six, or in our offered compromise nine, months; our arguments were not just about the time period but crucially that they should be able to do any work, not just in “shortage occupations” which makes the current right, after twelve months, effectively meaningless.

The first time we voted on this, Labour not only supported but signed the amendment. Yesterday was a different story. Whilst there were 13 Labour peers who voted with us (who strongly voiced their views as to how their leadership were wrong), it was not enough to defeat a Government whose ideology continues to get in the way of making commonsense reforms.

It is now up to the Commons to vote but the Government should not underestimate our dedication to these issues.  We mustn’t under-estimate what has been achieved (more judicial oversight of detention, statutory guidance and more focus on pregnant women), but we will go on working with other peers to make this horrible Bill just a little bit better.

* Sally Hamwee is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, and the Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities.

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2 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 27th Apr '16 - 5:05pm

    Cameron was anti at PMQ on 27/4/2016.

  • Katerina Porter 28th Apr '16 - 10:30am

    There is also the case of children, and others, who have family in Britain and have a legal right to come, to say nothing of interpreters who worked for us in Iraq at great risk. There is apparently deliberate delay in processing them, with no permanent presence of officials in Calais/ Dunkirk. I knew Romanians who worked for us against the Germans, were imprisoned by the Communists and when released got British nationality, back pay, pension rights and offers of jobs in Britain. This was not unique.

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