Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:37 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 7:37 pm, 30th January 2017

I join others in congratulating my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband and Nadhim Zahawi on securing this incredibly important debate. There is a reason why thousands of people have taken to the streets of Britain tonight to express their concern about this ban and what it says about our world, and particularly to ask what we are going to do about it.

I do not disagree with a word said by Anna Soubry—it is a shame that she is no longer in her place—about sometimes challenging the agreeability of our debates in this place, so in the spirit of what she said, let me bring some discord to our discussions. I feel very strongly that the central question facing us tonight is what people in positions of power will do. We have seen what the leader of the free world in his first week in office has chosen to do with that power. We now have to ask ourselves as elected representatives in the United Kingdom what we will do by return.

I do not disagree with Will Quince about respecting the fact that this man is an elected politician, but just because he won an election does not absolve him of responsibility for the consequences of his behaviour—and nor does it absolve us of responsibility for the consequences of not acting. With that process in mind, I wish to make four quick points. We have to speak up, and we must do so not just because of the impact on people in our communities described in the incredibly eloquent speech of my hon. Friend Naz Shah, but because of what it says about us as a society. When we are indifferent to hatred and intolerance, we are participants in it.

This is about hatred. This is a ban on people on the basis of their religion or their nationality. No form of this ban could be acceptable. There is no way of modifying it to make it plausible. It is simply hatred, and we should be clear about that, because not being clear about it suggests that there are circumstances in which we might seek to ban people and restrict them on the basis of their religion or nationality. It suggests that we would do the same—that we would allow there to be different classes of citizen in our communities, in our country, in our world. We must be very clear about the fact that there is no acceptable form of this ban, and only the need to challenge it.

The question is, how do we challenge that? This is where I disagree with my Conservative colleagues. Absolutely, we must engage; absolutely, we must speak up. That is why I read with despair that our own Prime Minister had the opportunity directly to look the President of the United States in the eye, in a private meeting, and say, “Look, this is not right. This will be counter-productive. This will not achieve what you want, and it will divide our nation.” She clearly has not done that. The opportunity to engage was on the table, and she did not take it. I think that that damages all of us in the United Kingdom who defend the importance of our Government in leading such engagement.

The Minister may disagree with me, but I feel very strongly. [Interruption.] If the Minister wants to intervene and confirm that the Prime Minister raised this issue with the President of the United States directly, I will happily take an intervention, but if he cannot confirm that, what I say stands. I felt ashamed on Saturday night when the Home Office, the Foreign Office and No. 10 refused to make a statement. It was damning for us as a nation when the world was calling out for leadership.