The Immigration Bill: 23 Liberal Democrat Lords rebel on “stateless” power, 12 on child trafficking guardian

immigrationThe Immigration Bill was back in the Lords this Monday where the Government suffered two defeats. The first was to overturn the power of the Home Secretary to deprive terror suspects who had acquired British citizenship  (note, suspects, not anybody who has been convicted of anything) of that citizenship even if so doing would render them stateless.

Of the 242 peers supporting Lord Pannick’s amendment, 23 of them were Liberal Democrats. And their ranks included more than the usual Awkward Squad. Bob Maclennan and Paul Tyler do not often cause whips to lose sleep, yet they voted against the Government. Meral Hussein-Ece and Richard Allan also fall in to that category. You can see the whole list here.  Sally Hamwee spoke in the debate and proposed unsuccessful amendments but didn’t vote.

Shirley Williams, Willie Goodhart, Bob Maclennan and Emma Nicholson were amongst those voting in favour of a successful  amendment to ensure that a child at risk of removal as a result of being trafficked was appointed a guardian to represent their interest. The Government’s proposals were simply to give them advocates with  no legal power or responsibility.  Meral Hussein-Ece explained why this would not go far enough:

The amendment gives the guardian some parental responsibility to act and take decisions in the best interests of the trafficked child, and to work across agencies. We know, as has already been said, how local authorities are stretched. Often a child will have three, four or five social workers in a year. That is not unusual. Very often, they simply get lost trying to navigate a very complex system.

The attraction of a guardian, which is so compelling in the amendment, is that this person would be required by the Secretary of State to take a far more official and statutory responsibility for individual young people and to act in their best interests.

She was supported by Eric Avebury:

I will just pick up a point that my noble friend made about the difference in powers between the advocate on one side and the guardian on the other. The point was raised in the memorandum sent to us by the Refugee Children’s Consortium whether or not, without “legal powers”, there will be anyone,

“to instruct solicitors on a child’s behalf and ensure that decisions are made in their best interests”.

Would the advocate have those powers to instruct a solicitor on the child’s behalf? I take it that a guardian certainly would have those powers, which is an important difference between the two proposals that we now have before us.

 Sadly, one amendment to ensure Legal Aid for young people in danger of being removed after, for example, leaving care at 18, to a country that may be unfamiliar to them, didn’t even make it to the vote. Its proposer, Roger Roberts, had some harrowing details of the effects of the fear of removal on young people:

We have heard stories of young people reaching the age of 18 and then facing possible deportation. There may be a dawn raid, but I hope that the age of the dawn raid is over. There are stories of youngsters aged 18 bedwetting, which is very embarrassing. I heard of one lad who would push the wardrobe up against the bedroom door so that if anyone came in the early hours of the morning to arrest him, it would be that bit more difficult for them to do so. The worst story I heard was that of one lad who had fashioned a noose and hung it over his bed, so that if anyone came, he could take that way out.

Please can we keep this situation under constant review and possibly look at the more extreme cases—I admit that these are the more extreme ones—so that every child feels that he or she is not alone? They need to know that people are there who are ready to work with them. I hope very much that by talking to the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, we can come up with some sort of solution.

The Bill now goes back to the Commons which may overturn the Lords amendments and the Parliamentary ping-pong will commence.

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16 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 9th Apr '14 - 7:48pm

    The “rebels” include nine former MPs and are balanced towards peers who have been in the Lords for some time.

    Also only 40 supporting the government including the “payroll” vote of government and party whips etc, most of whom are not paid.

    So the deliberate abstentions on a day when probably over 80 LDs were around would be at least 15 and perhaps 20 including people who stayed away. The question now is whether the government will seek a compromise and if so what it could be.

    Tony

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 9th Apr '14 - 10:47pm

    Thanks, Tony. let’s hope common sense prevails.

  • Feels we have won precious little on immigration, whoever our minister at the Home Office has been. Well done to the rebel peers.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Apr '14 - 10:21am

    Sections of the Immigration Bill are appalling, illiberal, and frankly racist, in my view. The big problem we have is that the Labour. Party are keeping their heads down, and voting mainly with the Tories to appear ‘tough on immigration’ it was made clear that Lord Roger Roberts amendment, to allow asylum seekers to work after 6 months while awaiting their application to be determined, would fail as the Labour Party would not support it, and would vote with the Government line. Which is why Roger didn’t move it. This has been Lib Dem policy for years, yet we have to sit back and watch while asylum seekers live destitute lives on £36 p week, while not being allowed to work. How ‘tough’ and inhumane.

  • Meral Hussein Ece

    Sections of the Immigration Bill are appalling, illiberal, and frankly racist, in my view. The big problem we have is that the Labour. Party are keeping their heads down, and voting mainly with the Tories to appear ‘tough on immigration’ it was made clear that Lord Roger Roberts amendment, to allow asylum seekers to work after 6 months while awaiting their application to be determined, would fail as the Labour Party would not support it, and would vote with the Government line. Which is why Roger didn’t move it. This has been Lib Dem policy for years, yet we have to sit back and watch while asylum seekers live destitute lives on £36 p week, while not being allowed to work. How ‘tough’ and inhumane.

    Always worth remembering that all this legislation passes because the Liberal Democrats are in government and vote for it.

    It’s nothing to do with Labour.

    Perhaps you should demand that your own party stops supporting it, rather than seeking to blame everyone else?

  • “The big problem we have is that the Labour. Party are keeping their heads down, and voting mainly with the Tories to appear ‘tough on immigration’”

    Surely the problem is that all three parties are doing this. Why else did the Lib Dems support the benefit restrictions for EU migrant workers?

  • roger roberts 10th Apr '14 - 4:45pm

    I was deeply disappointed by Labour’s response to my amendment that would have reduced the time Asylum Seekers had to wait before being allowed to work – from 12 months to 6 months.The Labour front bench didn’t say a word ! – It had everything to do with Labour ! It was the Labour government which in July 2002 raised the time period to 12 months. I used to think that a Lib-Lab Coalition would be far more compassionate and caring.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Apr '14 - 8:03pm

    G. I was explaining why it would have been futile for Lord Roger Roberts amendment to be put to the vote in the Lords. I thought I’d made it clear this is Lib Dem policy, and we should have ensured it ended up in the Bill. But as ever we are in a coalition, and it seems Theresa May, and her colleagues, predicably, would not agree to it. Had the Labour Party signalled their support, then it could have had a chance in a division.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 10th Apr '14 - 8:05pm

    Roger – well said! And congratulations for all your hard work and commitment to bring forward a truly Liberal approach to this illiberal Immigration Bill.

  • But as ever we are in a coalition, and it seems Theresa May, and her colleagues, predicably, would not agree to it. Had the Labour Party signalled their support, then it could have had a chance in a division.

    So it is the Labour Party’s fault that the Tories are making the Liberal Democrats do things they don’t want to do?

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Apr '14 - 11:40am

    Joe Otten: “it is the Labour Party’s fault when they vote for the illiberal position when they are the swing vote on an issue. (See also AV, Lords reform etc.)”

    That’s an odd way of looking at it. As a matter of fact, the government has a large majority – Labour are not the “swing vote” on any issue.

    Even Nick Clegg – who usually shares your penchant for blaming Labour for everything – was clear that it was the Tories who scuppered Lords reform :-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19149212

    As for AV, I’m not sure what you mean about Labour being the “swing vote”, since I could have sworn the AV referendum bill was actually passed.

    Roger Roberts: “I was deeply disappointed by Labour’s response to my amendment… The Labour front bench didn’t say a word!”

    I’m not sure I get you. Did Labour respond, or not?

  • g, it is the Labour Party’s fault when they vote for the illiberal position when they are the swing vote on an issue. (See also AV, Lords reform etc.) Not so much civil liberties where the Tories are the swing vote.

    Did a majority of Liberal Democrat MPs and peers vote for this legislation?

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Apr '14 - 11:50am

    Joe Otten: “Not so much civil liberties where the Tories are the swing vote.”

    On secret courts it was the Lib Dems who were the swing vote – and they swung with their Tory chums, against civil liberties.

  • Simon Banks 11th Apr '14 - 5:15pm

    That there were so many rebels is marvellous. That it came to the Lords as a government measure with Liberal Democrats pressed to support it as a government measure, is disgraceful. We look to Nick Clegg and others in government to defend Liberal values.

    G – it’s ridiculous to claim the Labour Party “has nothing to do with it”. Is there not a Labour Party with many members of both houses? If you can’t deny what Roger Roberts has said, you should accept both Labour and Liberal Democrat loyalists are culpable. Go back further, of course, and the Blair/Brown government was fundamentally illiberal, on detention without trial, on the misuse of ASBOs, you name it.

  • Simon Banks, did labour draw up this legislation and put it to parliament?

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