Ping pong continues and the Bill will now return to the House of Lords on Tuesday, 26 April
As was largely expected, the Government comfortably won all votes when the Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the House of Commons today for consideration of the second round of amendments made by the House of Lords earlier this month.
Image credit: UK GovernmentTom Pursglove MP, the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, told the House of Commons that the Government could not accept the Lords amendments.
"These are amendments that we have already debated, voted on and sent back to the other place, expressing our dissatisfaction with them," Pursglove said.
The list of the sixteen motions that were moved to be voted upon today is available here.
Following a brief one-hour debate, which the SNP's Stuart McDonald criticised for being a pitiful amount of time to consider important amendments, a total of twelve votes were held. The Government won all of the votes and the Lords' amendments were rejected.
The Green Party's Caroline Lucas said the Government had depressingly rammed through its rejection of the amendments. She called the Bill shameful.
During the debate, Pursglove said the UK always acts in accordance with its international obligations, and he said people should only come to the UK through safe and legal routes.
A number of MPs, including some Conservative backbenchers, questioned what legal routes existed.
In response to a question by Labour's Lloyd Russell-Moyle asking specifically how a Kurdish Syrian in Turkey could seek asylum in Britain if no legal routes existed to come to the country, Pursglove mentioned the global Resettlement Scheme and the new skilled-based immigration system as possible legal ways to come to the UK.
Pursglove also confirmed that the legal basis for the new migration partnership with Rwanda is existing legislation rather than the Nationality and Borders Bill.
Pursglove latter added: "The objective of the Rwanda partnership announced last week is to create a mechanism for the relocation of individuals whose claims are not being considered by the UK—the inadmissible—to Rwanda, which will then process their claims. However, in future, we may wish to extend eligibility for overseas processing to those who have otherwise abused the UK's asylum system, beyond undertaking dangerous or unnecessary journeys. That is the intention of this measure, which will make it easier for us to remove those who have pending asylum claims to another country for their claims to be processed."
He continued with regard to clause 28 of the Bill that allows the offshoring of asylum seekers: "Let me remind the House—I have set this out already, but it bears repeating—that the powers set out in clause 28 via schedule 3 are not new. For nearly 20 years, it has been possible under UK law to remove individuals from the UK while their asylum claim is pending if a certificate is issued under schedule 3 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004. The measure in the Bill amends existing legal frameworks to make it easier to remove such individuals without going through a certification process, provided the country to which they are being removed meets the safety criteria that we have set out in the Bill."
The shadow Minister for Immigration, Stephen Kinnock, told the House of Commons that Labour would be voting for the Lords' amendments of the Bill.
"Labour supports all the amendments before us today that seek to mitigate the worst excesses of this profoundly inadequate and mean-spirited piece of legislation, which reflects the toxic combination of incompetence and indifference that we have come to expect from this Home Secretary. The reality is that this Bill is an exercise in damage limitation—in essence, an attempt by the Home Secretary to deal with the awful mess she has been making since she was appointed in 2019," Kinnock told the Commons.
Kinnock said that the migration partnership with Rwanda was offloading rather than offshoring, and it would be extortionately expensive and unworkable. He added that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that it would deter the people smugglers or the small boats crossing the Channel.
Kinnock continued: "[T]here is also a chance that the scheme may not even get off the ground as it will end up getting bogged down in the legal system. There can be absolutely no doubt that the Government's claim that Rwanda is a safe country for refugees will be challenged in the courts given that thousands of Rwandans seek asylum in Europe every year."
Kinnock called for more Home Office caseworkers and more investment in the court system so that asylum applications can be processed more quickly. He also called on the Home Secretary to engage more constructively with France and the EU to negotiate returns agreements.
Following the rejection of the Lords amendments, the Nationality and Borders Bill will now return to the House of Lords on Tuesday, 26 April.
The Bill will need to be agreed by both Houses before the current 2021-22 parliamentary session ends and the new 2022-23 session begins. The new session starts with the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday, 10 May, but the current session is expected to be prorogued several days before.