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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:32 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Home Secretary 2:32 pm, 13th October 2015

Personally speaking, in my view those people and children should not be in detention. We need to take a look at how this country has approached these issues over a number of years. I would be happy to work with the hon. Gentleman on a cross-party basis, to address those issues. That is what we should do.

My final concern with the Bill relates to vulnerable children. [Interruption.] These are important issues and Michael Ellis would do well to listen to them before rushing into the Lobby to vote for the proposals without any evidence to support them.

Clause 34 proposes to remove support from families with children. Let me be honest—that was piloted by our Government, but it was rightly abandoned because of the effects it had. In a parliamentary debate in 1999, when those provisions were suggested, it was said that

“all children on British soil should be given the same protection…no child should go without protection…We are concerned about the welfare of children, who should not suffer under any circumstances, whoever their parents are and whatever their basis for being in the country.”—[Hansard, 16 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 418-421.]

Those are fine sentiments, and they came from the then Conservative Opposition. I say to Government Members that what was right then is right now. No child should face destitution in our country, whoever they are, wherever they come from.

One of the most powerful moments in the Prime Minister’s conference was when he talked about his response to the photograph of Alan Kurdi. It was powerful because it spoke to our common humanity and our instinct to protect children, whatever their circumstances. That is why the Bill is not supportable until those measures have been dropped.

In conclusion, the House will notice that we have not gone down the route of outright opposition in framing our response. As I said at the beginning, there are measures we support and we have set them out in our reasoned amendment. However, when balanced against the other concerns that I have highlighted in my speech, the scales tip towards preventing the progress of the Bill.

If the Government are prepared to change the Bill to address the fundamental problems I have outlined, I would be prepared to reconsider our position. As long as they stay in, however, we will take a stand against them for what is right and for what we should represent as a country.

The truth is that the Bill is driven by the wrong motive—a desire to be seen to be doing something, to generate headlines. That is the problem that lies behind it. Such is the scale of the Government’s failure on immigration, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North said, and such is the size of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality, that they are now resorting to ever more drastic, desperate measures to give the impression of action.

The Government promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands. It currently stands at a record 330,000 and there is no evidence to suggest that anything in the Bill will bring that down. There is evidence, however, to suggest that it could cause real harm in every constituency represented in this House.

Government Members might be happy to legislate without evidence, but we will not follow them. We will give no support to a Government pandering to prejudice and legislating in haste to make Britain a more hostile and unwelcoming country. That is why I move the reasoned amendment standing in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. If it falls, I will ask the House to oppose this unpleasant and insidious Bill.