Last night the House of Lords again delivered a series of crushing defeats to the Nationality and Borders Bill, insisting key reforms rejected by the Commons are looked at again. Frustration with the government’s approach on the bill saw an unusually high number of amendments voted through (12 out of 13) including our two priorities, which strike at the heart of the bill. You can see general coverage of what happened in The Guardian.
A parliamentary convention to avoid ‘double insistence’ whereby both Houses fail to agree on a solution, means that all amendments voted on yesterday had to be re-worded. That formality did nothing to soften the blow for government, when peers voted for the second time to scrap clause 11, which seeks to treat refugees differently based on how they arrive here, rather their need for protection. Powerful speeches demonstrated that peers find this clause repugnant and in breach of the UN Convention for Refugees. And it reflected intense united action in Westminster by Together With Refugees members – and all the work you have been doing to change the public debate on refugees over many months. Thank you so much for all you’ve done!
Peers also voted to force the government to publish how many refugees it will resettle each year. This represents another major win even if the revised amendment dropped a specific reference to a number. Together With Refugees is still calling for a minimum of 10,000 refugees to be resettled every year. However, pressuring Ministers to accept this will still enable the government and councils to set up systems to support refugees better, rather than the current ad-hoc, make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach. This means both our calls for change go back to the House of Commons where MPs must vote again.
That’s significant because although the government has so far said they are not willing to budge, peers have shown they’re prepared to dig in their heels. And the government is under pressure to finish a raft of bills before the end of this year’s parliamentary session.
The government is also on the backfoot on its response on refugees from Ukraine and has failed to keep up with the public outpouring of support for people fleeing that crisis. We are keen to highlight the possible consequences of the new laws on Ukrainians and people fleeing all wars, and to use this to force concessions on the bill. And the more we galvanise public support, the more this will help the longer-term battle to shift the UK’s whole approach on refugees. So, the fight for humanity and compassion continues.
The bill is expected to return to the House of Commons just after Easter and we think the first possible opportunity for MPs to vote will be 20 April, though it could be later or even the following week. We’ll soon be asking you to press MPs to reach out to ministers, so they think twice about rejecting the lords’ amendments, and to finally reflect public concern for refugees.
Finally, remember to post your future and past events on the Together With Refugees ‘Show Your Heart’ map. The ‘past events’ will demonstrate the depth and breadth of support for a more compassionate approach to refugees, from communities all over the UK.
The power of working together is really paying off. Thank you so much for all your energy, resourcefulness and dedication to making the UK’s approach to refugees fairer, kinder and more effective.
With thanks to Together With Refugees for this update.