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Government Says It "Can't Accept" Lords Amendments To Illegal Migration Bill


3 min read

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has called on peers in the House of Lords to “move forward" to pass the government's Illegal Migration bill, insisting MPs “can’t accept” amendments as the controversial legislation goes down to the wire.

The bill, which is key to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop illegal Channel crossings is reaching its final parliamentary stages having already faced a string of defeats in upper house. 

MPs are this evening expected to strip out nine changes made by peers to the bill last week, including amendments which would require the government to come forward with a ten-year strategy on tackling human trafficking and the refugee crisis, abide by international treaties, and provide protections for unaccompanied children. The government is determined to get the legislation onto statute books before the House of Commons rises for recess at the end of this week. 

This bouncing of amendments between the two Houses is known as 'ping-pong'. Opening the latest Commons debate on the bill this afternoon, Jenrick said that there is “simply no point” in passing legislation that does not provide a deterrent to people wishing to cross the Channel. 

“The message in the means must be absolutely clear and unambiguous. If you come to the UK illegally you won’t be able to stay here. Instead you’ll be detained and return to your home country or removed to a safe third country,” he told MPs.  

“We can’t accept amendments that provide for exceptions, qualifications and loopholes which would simply perpetuate the current cycle of delays and endless late and repeated legal challenges to removal.”

The House of Lords is preparing to discuss the bill again this evening, with a warning on the parliamentary schedule that “the House may sit late”. 

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti - who introduced the amendment that would prevent the government from breaching  - told PoliticsHome that is is “deeply disappointing to see the immigration minister doubling down yet again”. 

“When [Jenrick] did this over painting out children’s cartoons, people saw his basic lack of compassion," she continued, referring to a dispute over decorations in a migrant detention centre recently. 

"His determination to paint out the role of British judges shows contempt for our Rule of Law.”

Labour has accused ministers of “closing their eyes and ears to the reality of what’s happening around them”. 

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock told the Commons that ministers are "refusing to listen" and that government plans would "compounbd the chaos" in the asylum system. 

Last week MPs voted to reject 18 amendments from the Lords, but the government has faced significant rebellion from its own benches, including on the area of modern slavery which is of concern to former prime minister Theresa May

The rebellion involved other senior Tories like former Cabinet ministers Robert Buckland, ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith and senior backbencher Caroline Nokes.


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