Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:15 pm on 16th March 2018.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince Conservative, Colchester 12:15 pm, 16th March 2018

I will come back to the hon. Lady in a moment, but I just want to make a little progress.

We need to address the current system, and the problems with the current system, before looking at further legislation. I will come to the other concerns of Layla Moran in a few moments.

There are also other settlement schemes, such as Mandate, which can help eligible refugees with close family ties to the UK. We also need to recognise that widening eligibility, as this Bill does, will do nothing to tackle the refugee crisis in and of itself. Issues creating a pull factor have already been mentioned by numerous Members. I know that some have put opposing views to that, and I entirely respect that, but I think it is widely accepted that push factors of civil war and persecution are the single biggest deciding factor in whether an individual chooses to flee their country. As long as there is instability across the middle east and north Africa, vulnerable people will choose to continue to flee. We need to find sustainable solutions to these problems as well as to support those affected.

I think that everyone in this Chamber wants to ensure that eligible refugees are able to reunite with family members in the United Kingdom. I have to say, though, that questions can be raised over the approach that we take. I remain to be convinced by the Bill, as I have not yet made up my mind. I stress that as I want to hear the remainder of the debate, I will be brief in summing up.

I do not want to cause undue disagreement or discord in a debate that has otherwise been largely constructive, but I have to say that it is somewhat unhelpful of Members to label colleagues who do not feel able to support the Bill today as either lacking in empathy or being cold-hearted, which has happened both in this Chamber and on social media. I admit that I have yet to make up my mind on this issue. On the Dubs amendment, I made up my mind mid-way through the debate, much to the disappointment of the Whips Office. The point I am making is that people’s minds can be changed, and that it is not overly helpful to make those kinds of comments about individuals who have not yet made up their minds, or indeed who may not feel able, at this point, to support the Bill.

Accepting and noting the contributions of colleagues so far, I have a concern that the Bill would rapidly widen the eligibility criteria while not acknowledging the wider continuing problems with the Dublin process or the potential pull factors that it might generate. We want to make the Dublin regulations work. We are investing in our European allies to ensure that refugees, when they arrive in Europe, can be quickly processed and that family members can be identified. That is the sensible approach. All the while, we are working hard to resettle 23,000 vulnerable refugees.

I have always felt that this nation should react swiftly and decisively in response to large-scale crises. That is why I supported the Dubs scheme, and the record shows that I was one of only five Conservative Members to do so. However, this is not the same as wide-scale immigration reform. I welcome this Bill and I welcome the debate, which has been a good one with passionate contributions from numerous Members. I will listen to the remainder of the debate before forming an on-balance view.