Lots of constituents have contacted me about the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill.

On Tuesday (11 July 2023), the House of Commons considered the House of Lords’ amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. I commend the work of the Lords who sought to improve this Bill. In my opinion, many of these amendments attempted to prevent unnecessary attacks on some of the most vulnerable people in society. I am disappointed that, following 18 votes, all of the Lords’ amendments were overturned by Government majorities.

I am deeply concerned by the Government’s detention plans for children. I supported a Lords’ amendment which would have retained the 72-hour limit on the detention of accompanied children. Likewise, I backed a similar amendment on retaining the 24-hour limit on the detention of unaccompanied children. Frustratingly, the Government’s amendment to extend detention for these children to eight days was passed instead.

Vulnerable women, particularly those who are pregnant or victims of modern slavery, also need protection and I supported two Lords’ amendments which aimed to retain the 72-hour limit on the detention of pregnant women. I am dissatisfied with the Government’s alternative amendment, which passed and will allow the detention of pregnant women to be extended to seven days with a Minister’s approval.

Modern slavery is also a key issue in this Bill. I supported several amendments to protect victims, all of which were rejected. This included exempting victims from removal, as well as removing the presumption that it is unnecessary for victims co-operating with criminal proceedings to remain in the UK. I also believe that we cannot remove LGBT+ refugees to third countries with governments that pursue homophobic and transphobic policies. I supported the Lords’ amendment on this issue, as well as an amendment to ensure that the Bill would not require any action that violates international law.

Fundamentally, this Bill is designed to manufacture controversy, rather than properly tackle the asylum crisis. We have seen channel crossings rocket, with the busiest June yet. The Rwanda scheme is fundamentally flawed and fails to act as a credible deterrent.

The Bill was sent back to the Lords and is expected to return to the Commons on 17 July.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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