The Nasty and Brutish Bill

Not its formal title of course (that’s Nationality and Borders), but it better describes the anti-asylum seekers, refugees and victims of modern slavery bill that was passed last night.

I wrote on Lib Dem Voice in January in what now seem relatively moderate terms criticising the Bill which has been opposed by, among others, the UNHCR.  I won’t write an essay now, but I want to say how grateful we are to colleagues in the party for all that so many do, working and volunteering in the sector – and to share some of what happened at the last stages of what earlier today became an Act of Parliament.

The last vote called would have made it quite clear that the Bill / Act complies with the Refugee Convention. The amendment, considered necessary by some of the most senior lawyers in the land (and by Lord (Ken) Clark, who understood the duties of a Lord Chancellor), was moved by Shami Chakrabarti who was splendid.  The Labour front bench took the view that we were at the end of the road on the Bill, and while they supported the principle were not prepared to vote to support one of their own. But she did call a vote – if she hadn’t, we were geared up to do so.  It was defeated 157 to 212.

The 157 included 35 Labour peers (their group is 167 – the others who were here abstained); and 72 Liberal Democrats (out of 83). You can work out how the percentages compare.

The previous day a vote was called by a Bishop (and they don’t do these things lightly) on offshoring / outsourcing. 221 opponents defeated the 216 of us who supported it and who included 73 Lib Dems and 102 Labour.

You can imagine how the arrangements with Rwanda have been received.  Don’t let anyone say that that those who oppose it are supporting smuggling.  The Government may sneer at “fat cat human rights lawyers” who will challenge Home Office decisions. They don’t seem to grasp that they are actually opening up more opportunities for smuggling and for human trafficking, as people will be desperate to get out of Rwanda.

The slog through this Bill, led for us energetically and cogently in the Lords by Brian Paddick, has been horrible.  But nothing like as horrible an experience as it is and will be for people who seek sanctuary.

* 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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5 Comments

  • It is a shame the Labour Party did not see fit for the Lords to send the Bill back to the Commons for the fourth time. It is only by using the opportunities presented will we start to actually reform the way Westminster conducts business.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 30th Apr '22 - 1:12pm

    Sally, first of all many thanks for everything that you, Brian Paddick and all the other Lib Dem Peers have put into this battling against this wicked (and I don’t use that term lightly) Bill.
    Also thanks for posting this article. Even I, who follow such closely, had not realised that many Labour had not supported the amendments in the end. I was bitterly disappointed, even though I expected it, that it was passed and didn’t look it up.
    The Bill is against everything that we Lib Dems stand for, and any decent and caring person would accept either if they understood its ramifications.
    I had many e-mails the other day from the national campaigning organisations saying that they will not give up despite the Bill passing, they will fight on.
    So must we in what ways are possible. As you say the experience of those battling Peers has been horrible, not not nearly as horrible for those it will affect from this day on.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 30th Apr '22 - 1:52pm

    Looked it up now. You only have to look at this picture to see how few Labour peers voted for the amendment. Proud of our Lib Dems https://www.theyworkforyou.com/divisions/pw-2022-04-27-2-lords
    I’ve also looked up the debate on the amendment, it is here https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2022-04-27a.298.0#g310.0
    Brian Paddick spoke well for the Lib Dems. Shami Chakrabarti spoke well too, as did others, and it seems it was brave of her to push for a vote.
    It isn’t just a case of the ramifications of this Bill, it is as Brian Paddick says “This time, it is refugees’ rights; next time, it could be our rights that are in danger if the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Deputy Prime Minister, gets his way.”
    and ” I am reminded of “First they came” by the German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller. If we do not speak out about this Government eroding the rights of refugees, as they seek to do in this Bill, the next step will be to erode the rights of each and every one of us.”

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Apr '22 - 8:37pm

    I am so glad to read of the Lib Dem peers’ efforts to support vital amendments to this wretched bill, now unfortunately been passed. Lib Dems clearly have to take the lead in trying to protect the basic rights of refugees, and the uphill task must continue. It was also good to hear of Home Office staff protesting internally about the horrific plan to send the unauthorised refugees to Rwanda, and of legal battles to try to stop it. We will need a new motion ourselves for Conference.

  • Brian Paddick 2nd May '22 - 11:59am

    I want to also mention Sarah Ludford, whose support I also valued greatly along with Sally’s.

    This needs to be put into the context of the most gruellying period of late night deabtes and voting I have experienced in my time in the Lords (since 2013). The lack of Labour support may not be as noteworthy as was the determination and stamina of Lib Dem members of the Lords, some with a decade and more on my 64 years, night after night, staying late to vote on these important issues.

    The message on the doorstep for voters in local elections is, Lib Dems fight for everything we achieve, and we never take anything, not least voters, for granted.

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