Illegal Migration Bill Second Reading

This is a Government of divide and rule: they attack the leftie lawyers and judges who uphold the law, and they attack environmentalists for their common-sense demands of ensuring a safe, secure future for planet and people. Above all, they attack the immigrants, the foreigners, because they hope it will win them votes.

This Bill is not the solution to any problem, it is illegal, impractical, expensive, cruel and undemocratic

This is a Government of divide and rule. Although they have not had many successes over the past few months, they have been moderately successful in that. They attack the leftie lawyers and judges who uphold the law, and they attack environmentalists for their common-sense demands of ensuring a safe, secure future for planet and people. Above all, they attack the immigrants, the foreigners, because they hope it will win them votes. I am afraid it does not, and I should have thought, judging from the local election results last week, the Government would know that their policies are not popular any more.

This Bill is one of the worst in a constant stream, a slurry, of bad Bills, and it really needs to go under. I will be voting for the fatal amendment. I understand where Labour is coming from with its idea about improving it, but if we push it back today, it cannot come back for 13 months, which is worth doing because, who knows, this Government could be out of power by then, and Labour would obviously not bring in anything like this.

There are four huge problems, which I will outline. First, the Bill breaks the law. It is not just that this Government are out to break the Geneva convention and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to both of which Great Britain was a founding signatory; it is not just that the Government are trashing a British tradition of welcoming those fleeing war, terror and persecution but it is the ecstatic glee with which the Home Secretary watches the building of barracks in Rwanda and dreams of locking up those who have committed the crime of being desperate and vulnerable.

Theresa May pointed out that we would be encouraging crimes. She said that

“we are shutting the door on victims who are being trafficked into slavery here in the UK”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/3/23; col 593.]

The UNHCR has commented that is “profoundly concerned” by what the UK Government are doing and:

“This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud”.

So it breaks laws, international and domestic—so much for the party of law and order.

Secondly, let us put aside for a moment the humanitarian considerations in the Bill, even though the Bill is cruel, inhumane and just plain nasty, and will inflict pain and suffering on thousands of people. Let us be practical. The Bill will not work. The whole thing is dubious in the way it will be operated. Do the Government seriously think that they are going to deport hundreds and thousands of people without protest and opposition? It just will not happen.

The former head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt—the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt—has attacked the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda, saying that Rwanda is still living under the “shadow of genocide”. He was in Rwanda as Chief of General Staff in 2009 and sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on War Crimes, which looks into those who participated in the Rwandan genocide. He has argued that it is

“unwise to send people from all over the world to a nation still recovering from the political violence that ravaged it in the 1990s”.

That sounds like a disorganised country to me; it certainly does not sound safe. Perhaps the Minister could explain his criteria for a safe country. I would argue that, when you face opposition from someone who is a pillar of the establishment, you have a problem.

I am sure that the Government have done their sums on this—including on detention, accommodation, flights, payments to other countries and policing protests —to me, it sounds extremely expensive. I would like to know what the cost is per person if all this works out.

Thirdly, the Bill is the opposite of what the UK needs. These asylum seekers could be a drain on resources—but only if your country is not short of a million workers, which we are. These immigrants are a burden only if you do not let them work and pay taxes. Do they cause longer queues for the NHS in hospitals and GP surgeries? No. In fact, these people seeking a new life are part of the solution to the NHS waiting lists. Dr Waheed Arian, an NHS medic and himself a child refugee and trauma survivor, says:

“It’s immigration that’s keeping the NHS just about alive”.

The Government have fooled some people into thinking that we are full up and that too many resources would be used by asylum seekers but the pressure on our NHS, our schools, our public services and our asylum system is coming from deliberate underfunding and careless privatisation by the Conservative Government. We have an ageing population and not enough young people coming through to pay our pensions or keep the economy functioning. We need immigration.

Fourthly, the Bill breaks our democratic system. This Government try constantly to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of their measures, both with this Bill and with others. They subvert democracy to make it easier to enact laws that would be deeply unpopular, giving power to Ministers when they should really be held to account by Parliament. We have had this argument many times in the past few years, with more and more skeleton Bills coming through that allow Ministers incredible freedom to decide for us all.

The BMA has said that it

“supports the development of a single, fair, humane and effective refugee system, in keeping with our obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including rights to necessary and appropriate health care irrespective of an individual’s route into the UK”.

Before the Minister asks whether we Greens have an alternative, let me say this: well, yes, of course we do. We have a fair and humane refugee and asylum policy, which is the result of a long period of research and is fully costed—possibly unlike the Government’s scheme. Noble Lords should remember that Greens are actually very good on finance and the economy because we have so little money and we spend it extremely wisely.

In short, the Bill is not the solution to any problem. It is impractical, expensive, cruel and undemocratic, with criminal tendencies. It will not work. I suggest that the Government have a rethink.

Read the whole debate here: Illegal Migration Bill – Hansard – UK Parliament