No sign of Conservative rebellion as MPs vote against earlier Lords defeats of the Bill
Government success in the House of Commons as MPs vote to reject House of Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill
22 March 2022
MPs in the House of Commons today voted with the Government and against numerous amendments made to the Nationality and Borders Bill by the House of Lords.
In the Bill's return to the House of Commons today, the Government successfully won all votes and all of the House of Lords amendments voted upon were rejected. There was no sign of the Conservative rebellion that some had predicted (see, for example, the earlier Sky News article here).
Tom Pursglove, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, told the Commons that the Government had carefully considered the Lords' amendments, as he moved the Government's motions disagreeing with over 20 of them.
Stephen Kinnock, Labour's Shadow Minister for Immigration, spoke in support of the amendments. Kinnock commented: "The fact that the Government were defeated fully 19 times in the other place is proof positive that this appalling legislation is not fit for the statute book."
One by one, numerous amendments made to the Bill by the House of Lords were voted upon by MPs today and rejected. In total, the Government won thirteen votes.
The key Lords amendment to remove clause 11 from the Bill was rejected by MPs by 318 votes to 220. Clause 11 would effectively create a two-tier asylum system based on whether asylum seekers arrived in the UK with or without official entry clearance. Arriving without permission to seek asylum will become a criminal offence. The amendment to clause 39 by the Lords, which removed the offence from the Bill, was voted down by MPs by 317 votes to 220.
Labour's Yvette Cooper said in response to the vote: "Tory MPs voted to make it a criminal offence for Ukrainian families to arrive in the UK without the right papers with a penalty of up to four years in prison. At a time when the British people have made clear that we need to help Ukrainian refugees, this is deeply shameful."
With regard to illegal entry offences, Tom Pursglove told the Commons: "This is not an attempt to prosecute every illegal entrant. Instead, prosecutions will focus on egregious cases: for example, cases in which an individual has entered in breach of a deportation order, or was previously removed as an illegal entrant or overstayer. We intend to take a firm stance in such cases, in order not to inadvertently reward such individuals with a grant of leave rather than punishing their abuse of the system. We are working closely with the police and our internal investigation teams to ensure that this policy is properly enforced, but is also proportionate."
The Lords amendment requiring the Bill to comply with the UK's obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention was rejected by 313 votes to 231. Tom Pursglove had earlier explained that the Government disagreed with the Lords' amendment as "[i]t is the clear position of this Government that everything we are doing is compatible with all our obligations under international law."
The Commons voted by 302 to 232 to reinstate clause 28 of the Bill, which would allow asylum seekers to be removed from the UK and sent overseas to a third country for their asylum claim to be processed. Stephen Kinnock told the Commons that the so-called offshoring provisions were "perhaps the most unhinged element of the Bill".
Detention Action's Bella Sankey said on Twitter in response to the vote: "It is horrifying that Conservative MPs have just voted to send orphaned children, rape survivors, modern slavery victims, pregnant women and other groups of traumatised refugees to offshore detention camps. This barbaric policy has no mandate & no place in our democracy."
By 318 votes to 223, the Commons voted to reinstate the Bill's controversial clause 9 that would allow the Home Secretary to strip a person of their British citizenship without giving notice.
The House of Lords amendment giving asylum seekers the right to work if they have been waiting for 6 months or more for a decision was rejected by MPs by 291 votes to 232.
In a second round of votes this evening, the Commons voted by 300 to 221 to reinstate clause 58, which sets a deadline for potential victims of trafficking or modern slavery to disclose the full details of their exploitation to the Home Office, as otherwise their credibility would be damaged.
All further votes in the second round were also won by the Government.
Following the rejection of the Lords' amendments in the Commons, the Bill now goes back to the House of Lords.
As explained by the Institute for Government, if the House of Lords and the House of Commons do not agree on the wording of a bill, it is sent back and forth between the two Houses and they respond to each other's proposed amendments in a process known as 'ping-pong'.
The Institute for Government notes: "Normally the Lords sees its role as sending amendments back to the Commons in order to ask 'are you sure?' and allow MPs an opportunity for further debate. The Lords usually tries to avoid frustrating the will of the elected House. Consequently, it is rare for the Lords to engage in multiple rounds of ping pong."