Lord Roger Roberts writes …What UKIP peers had to say about the Immigration Bill

House of Lords chamberAmong Liberal Democrats at least, the House of Lords is viewed as an institution deeply in need of reform. That said, the potential of this house to monitor and moderate the work of the House of Commons was absolutely evident during the passage of the Immigration Bill, which is due for its Lords third reading on 6 May.

The Lords were responsible for moderating the Bill in several important ways, such as:

  1. exempting student accommodation from the proposed ‘landlord checks
  2. creating ‘guardians’ for potential victims of child trafficking, and crucially
  3. blocking the Government’s plans to grant the Home Secretary the power to strip a naturalised citizen of their citizenship even if that would leave them stateless.

The Lords second reading and committee stage also granted the opportunity for Peers to debate other aspects of the Bill, ranging from the implications of the Government’s Article 8 consideration on the rights of children to the potential impact of reducing grounds for appeal. There were, ultimately, only five opportunities tovote, though there were many chances for Peers to air their grievances, concerns and special interests.

It is in the light, and indeed the spirit, of these debates that I became interested in what contributions the three UKIP Peers in the House had made.

I personally have a private member’s bill currently awaiting second reading that would reduce the time period asylum seekers had to wait before being able to apply for permission to work; I tabled amendments at committee and report stage to pursue this aim. As we saw in the Commons, some MPs used the Bill as a vehicle to air their concerns over free movement within the EU. Within the scope of a Bill such as this, there are clearly options for formally pursuing aims tangential tothose of the Bill itself.

I discovered that among the three UKIP Peers in the Lords, not one contribution had been made to the debate, and (alarmingly) not one vote had been placed. I wrote an open letter to the three noble Lords Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, and Lord Willoughby de Broke, that was subsequently published in the Evening Standard, the Independent, the Daily Mail, and on this blog.

The Lords in question have all since replied to my letter. As I noted, Lord Stevens is currently unwell, but assures me that he is making a full recovery. However, all three Lords expressed a shared sentiment regarding Europe, immigration policy and their position in the Lords that I find quite distressing:

For your information I do not believe in wasting my time on discussions about immigration policy when it  is now  an EU competence; the EU calls the shots on immigration, not Parliament.(Willoughby)

… you should know that the UKs Immigration policy is decided by Brussells [sic]. (Stevens)

I suppose we should have taken the trouble to point out that the Bill was a waste of time,but Their Lordships haven’t taken any notice of what we have been saying,rightly, about the EU and its wonderful euro for many years,and so on this occasion I am afraid we just didn’t bother. (Pearson)

I would argue that debates and votes in the House of Lords are not a waste of time. The Government defeat on its citizenship proposals demonstrates that the Lords has a very important part to play in UK politics, and in holding the Government to account. As UKIP has no MPs, the Lords is the only formal political institution in the UK within which UKIP can make any kind of political impact. That they ‘didn’t bother’ speaks volumes.

UKIP states, in the ‘issues’ section of its website, that ‘[a]s crisis follows crisis, our politicians do nothing in the face of dangers rearing up all around us.’ I’m sad to say that, as a politician who strives to do something, this sentiment is a sad indictment of a political party that seems to demonstrate the same hypocrisy it accuses all other politicians of displaying.

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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10 Comments

  • “I would argue that debates and votes in the House of Lords are not a waste of time.”
    And I would argue that it is, self evidently, very much an utter waste of time, to debate immigration issues, when you have a total open doors policy with the EU and almost zero border control.

  • This behaviour shows that UKIP are using the immigration issue as a means to continue their anti EU agenda. Having failed to gain great traction trying to excite people about the EU, they have seized on immigration as an issue where they find they can pedal misinformation and innuendo to inflame a mixture of xenophobic and racist tendencies.

  • Maria Pretzler 23rd Apr '14 - 12:31am

    Interesting that they refuse to participate in Westminster because they maintain that the main decisions are made in Brussels, but that UKIP MEPs equally refuse to participate in the EU parliament.

    It seems ever more evident that UKIP’s members of various legislatures are there for the money, but not for the work.

  • “UKIP MEPs equally refuse to participate in the EU parliament.”
    This is a statement repeated many times here on these threads, but only by those who simply don’t get the point. Ukip MEP’s are not there to ‘fix’ the EU. They [Kippers], know that the EU has morphed over 40 years into an insane megalomaniac sovereignty sucking monster that is well beyond any hope of fixing.
    To aid your thinking, remember that today is St Georges Day. For Ukip MEP think (St George), and for the Brussels EU establishment think (Dragon).
    Ukip MEP’s are worth every penny in their fight with the Dragon. I hope this has clarified any flawed thinking about ‘fixing’ the EU? The best case scenario is that we, [ All sovereign European Nations ], can get back to the [ pro Europe ], desires that voters had for the EEC in 1975.

  • John Dunn is not very bright. If ,as he seems to think, MEPS aren’t there to fix the EU perhaps they might consider doing what they are elected for which is to act in the interests of the people who elected them rather than leeching allowances to finance their nasty closet racist xenophobic Party.

  • Brian
    John Dunn says UKIP MEPs are not there to ‘fix’ the EU. UKIP believe the EU is beyond fixing as does their voters. MEPs from other parties may indeed see the need to do some ‘fixing’. To call John Dunn not very bright is uncalled for. Everyone is entitled to their views.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Apr '14 - 4:58pm

    @ John Dunn,
    What I fail to understand is, if you are not MEPs to participate in the EU or fix it, how can you justify taking the EU’s shilling?

  • Richard Dean 23rd Apr '14 - 9:42pm

    @John Dunn
    “For Ukip MEP think (St George), and for the Brussels EU establishment think (Dragon).”

    For UKIP supporter, think fairy tales.

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