Baroness Sally Hamwee writes..How Liberal Democrat Lords are trying to make the Immigration Bill less bad

The current Immigration Bill presents many challenges: one is its complexity, and another is sheer fury at the mind-set that it demonstrates on the part of the Government.  But every time I get angry, I remind myself that we must, we really must, do all we can to make it even a little bit less bad.

That means more self-discipline than, for me, comes naturally.  We will have far too little time for report stage in the Lords, which starts this week.  So we will have to be very focused.  It’s not just a matter of what we choose to discuss – we have to try to reach votes at times when we have the best chance of winning.  To that end, Brian Paddick and I have had several discussions with the Labour front-bench to agree a strategy.  Our irritation and sometimes sheer bemusement when Labour support us in debate but sit on their hands when it comes to a vote is well-known, but of course we are prepared to work with them if it means winning votes, and indeed make concessions as to how we approach issues if that means our opposition to the government is united.  And we are united in wanting crossbench peers to lead on amendments where possible as they may gain more traction than those of us with a party badge.

One issue on which Labour appear to have changed their minds is the long-held Lib Dem policy of allowing asylum-seekers to work after they have been here for six months.  We are agreed too on a time limit of 28 days on immigration detention, perhaps with very narrow exceptions, and that overseas domestic workers should be protected from abuse in line with the recent independent report by James Ewins.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of support for the UK to relocate and support 3000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children.  There is no need of legislation for this (wouldn’t it be good if the Government announced they would implement this before we get to vote?) but of course peers will use the opportunity.  Tim Farron has made this a policy priority, and we will be supporting the lead of Lord Dubs who himself came to the UK on the Kindertransport.

We will also be opposing new search powers when a driver is suspected of being an illegal immigrant.  Racial discrimination concerns us here, as it does in the requirements on landlords; to civil penalties (recently rolled out to the whole of England following a very unsatisfactory pilot – we got more support from backbench Tories than from Labour when I pushed that to a vote a few days ago) there will be added civil sanctions.  We will try to reduce the worst impact of the new skills charge, payable by employers who already face substantial obstacles and costs in bringing in foreign employees.

But it is clear we would not succeed in changing the rules allowing visas for people with considerable amounts of money to invest (or more accurately, to lend – they can realise their gilts).  We have made the point that it is easier for Russians and Chinese with dodgy cash to come here than for the non-British spouses and families of British citizens who do not earn “enough”.

There are times when I want to wash my hands of all this – I feel contaminated.  But that’s no reason to give up.


* 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.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Martin
    Paul Barker: A minority Labour government?? - You must be foreseeing a sizeable turn in the tide. At this moment a minority Conservative government lo...
  • Yeovil Yokel
    To me, there is a glaring omission from these two lists: the way we manage farmland and produce food. Organic farming is probably the most sustainable form of m...
  • David Raw
    Good interview on Channel 4 News tonight with Andy Wightman, the former Scottish Green MSP who first raised the matter in Holyrood of Queens Consent in relation...
  • Joe Bourke
    The Bank of England has a 2 minute video on economic growth and climate change
  • John Marriott
    What do you expect? Come on your Majesty, play the game!...