Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill (Programme) (No. 3)
(1) The Bill shall be re-committed to a Standing Committee.
(2) The proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on 4th July.'
The Home Secretary is, of course, right that the new clauses and amendments that the Government have tabled in the last 24 hours or so were widely signalled. The fact is, however, that they are also of great importance, and they are numerous—I believe that there are about 90 on the amendment paper.
It is no surprise to any of us that the Home Secretary has also been ingenious in the construction of the new clauses—in particular, new clauses 14 and 15. In them, he has yoked together two parallel sets of propositions. We strongly agree with one, but are in deep disagreement with the other, as I suspect he surmises. He has, by these means, presented us with the most interesting—and, from his point of view, delicious—opportunity to choose between voting for the Government to achieve what we have to achieve to make sense of what we have been saying for the last eight months, and voting against them to defeat measures that we find repulsive.
We cannot choose to do what we seek to do, which is to propose and agree with those parts with which we agree, and to disagree with and dispose of those parts with which we disagree. The parliamentary process is designed to enable people to take the positions that they actually wish to take, rather than those that the ingenuity of the Government—and their draftsmen—force upon them. The point of the Standing Committee is to tease out these differences in a slightly more dispassionate atmosphere, and to provide opportunities for the Government and the Opposition to put forward different formulations.
If necessary, if the Bill is not re-committed to Committee, we could ask our noble Friends in the other place to do that work for us. Indeed, Ministers might argue that, as there is no earthly chance of our winning a vote in Committee in this place, we might as well get on with the job and allow the other place—where there is a chance of the Government being overturned and of the amendments being amended—to do its work. On that thesis—although I am sure that it is not one with which you would have any sympathy, Mr. Speaker—we could dispense with the Standing Committee in this House altogether and, while we were at it, more or less dispense with the workings of this House between one election and the next, and leave it to the other place, where there is some possibility of the Government being defeated, to handle all legislation.