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Motion A

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Commons Amendments – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 22nd January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 6:00 pm, 22nd January 2020

My Lords, I express the Green group’s very strong disappointment about the decisions made earlier today in the other place. We sent them constructive amendments that aimed to protect those whom the Government themselves recognise as the most vulnerable people in society; to retain our close ties with the continent of Europe after we Brexit; to keep hard-won protections; and to recognise the established conventions of the power of the devolved institutions. We spent five days presenting powerful arguments for those amendments. I do not intend to rehearse any of them here. Rather, I present to the House three practical arguments for a way forward that the House might not currently be planning to take.

My first practical argument is about the past five days. We have all worked very hard. We have presented the arguments and argued the case. As the noble Baroness said, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has worked astonishingly hard and deserves the highest levels of credit. But we are potentially looking at the coming five years. I am not one who believes that we will suddenly see an outbreak of stability in Britain that means we will see five years of stable government—but it is possible that we will. So I ask your Lordships’ House to consider what it will be like if we spend five years working like we just have for the past five days and then get to the point again and again of not being listened to. Do we want simply to bow down and allow that to happen again and again?

My second practical argument is that we are not going against the Salisbury convention. Nothing here reflects what was in the election that was just held—the election in which 44% of people voted for a Tory Government and 56% of people did not.

My third practical suggestion is not to be what might be described as recalcitrant, but to pick one of these amendments to say to the Commons, “Please listen to the powerful arguments and think about the impact of your actions.” I am of course referring to the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, put forward. We could hold the line on that one amendment. I ask noble Lords to think about what the impact of that might be. We are talking about people whom the Government agree are the most vulnerable children on the planet.

As we have heard in the debates, we know that lots of those children have made their way to Britain through irregular, dangerous and sometimes deadly means. A couple of years ago, I went to a memorial service for a young man who died in the back of a lorry. He had the right to come to Britain, but felt that he could not exercise that right and died as a result. I ask noble Lords to think about the message that us bowing down on the Dubs amendment will send to children in Europe today. They need to know that there are people in Britain, in the Houses of Parliament, who are on their side. So I ask your Lordships to consider our way forward, and to consider standing up for those children.