Controversial immigration paper passes but leadership defeated on key amendment

The controversial paper on immigration passed today, but the only one of the five amendments to it that was opposed by the leadership passed.

Earlier, Ed Davey had reached an agreement with Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary which made the defeat of the paper less likely. The leadership’s acceptance of their amendments meant that the policy on asylum seekers is pretty much what a liberal party should be offering.

The 90 minute debate was heated and passionate and saw some quality  speeches. Opposing the paper, Alex Wilcock, who wrote for us yesterday, riveted the hall with a barnstormer which basically said  that pandering to racists gets you nowhere and we should just be more liberal.

The leadership sent Tim Farron out to neutralise the opposition. He said – without any trace of irony – that if we didn’t pass the policy, MPs wouldn’t be able to properly oppose the forthcoming Immigration Bill. As Lisa Maria Bornemann, something not being policy hadn’t stopped him from speaking out on stuff before.

An attempt to refer the motion back failed but the leadership’s one hill that they were prepared to die on was to oppose an amendment saying we should  “end the crude and arbitrary practice of the state splitting up families on grounds of income and permit families to stay together without any form of means testing or prohibition on seeking support from the state.”

The amendment passed easily to the surprise and delight of its proposers.

There are a number of outstanding key concerns around the language used in the paper, around Border Force and Immigration Enforcement, fees for visa applications, employers being used to snoop on their workforce and the DREAM act, which could become a nightmare if the young people were given status while their parents were deported.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Thanks Caron. It helps some of us cope with a painful experience. Clearly the paper came to us without the early warning lights flashing brightly enough in earlier stages of the process.

  • Sue Sutherland 17th Sep '18 - 12:56pm

    I’m glad all the amendments passed but if the party adopted a system of consulting members and party interest groups at an early stage in the process then the policy working group would have a steer about the direction members wanted to see in that policy. This seems likely to result in more liberal policies.

  • Richard O'Neill 17th Sep '18 - 11:03pm

    This whole proposal seems ill thought out. Is it to allow the leadership to say that Lib Dems are now tough on migration? I accept the idea that we shouldn’t castigate everyone concerned with immigration as being racist, but this idea seems wishy-washy. Clearly there is also a need for a more sympathetic view of immigrants. This scheme seems to aim to satisfy everyone, but will probably end up pleasing nobody.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Sep '18 - 4:13pm

    Just a few comments on the process as it happened. First, there WAS a consultation in the early stages of the policy paper process, as usual: it was the first consultation paper (which seemed to be pointing people to giving illiberal answers) which first caused an uproar, with some amended questions having to be circulated. Second, there was considerable feedback from party groups including the oddly named LD4SOS and others in the party throughout the process which were ignored by the working group – which appears to have decided from the start that the party needed to traiangulate to the right on this issue.

    As to your comments about “the leadership” accepting four amendments and being defeated by conference on the fifth…I don’t know who you mean by the leadership. Ed Davey was certainly involved in the discussions as spokesperson but the body which decided to take the 5 amendments was the Federal Conference Committee. The body that decided to “accept” four of them – ie recommend conference to support – was the Federal Policy Committee which (since it was a policy paper motion) was the official sponsor of the motion. These decisions were taken by the committee, meeting in the week before the conference and in one case (amendment 2) the decision was taken on a vote.

    There may well have been back-tracking in “leadership” circles whatever they are but the process was impeccably democratic.

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