The row over the past few weeks over the Immigration Bill has been rather ironic given it was introduced in part to calm Tory backbench nerves. Those nerves were over two issues: Bulgarian and Romanian migrants, and deportation, and while the Mills amendment which addresses the former remains on the order paper, albeit with some rival amendments aimed at siphoning off support, there is another big revolt on the way on the latter. Dominic Raab has tabled another amendment which has the support of more than 100 MPs on deportation. It is essentially a repeat of the amendment he tabled to the Crime and Courts Bill, and means that foreign criminals can only avoid deportation if they risk being killed or tortured on their return.
Raab fears that the government’s clause on deportation in the Immigration Bill would be ignored by UK courts. His last attempt failed only because the government was rushing through its legislative response to Leveson on the same day, but ministers and their aides had been increasingly panicking, and PPSs had demanded to be able to support the amendment too.
The Mail and Telegraph have covered this amendment this morning. It is a much more serious matter than the Mills amendment for a number of reasons. The first is that I understand that the list of supporters of the amendment remains roughly the same (the names have not yet been published but the Crime and Courts Bill amendment included David Blunkett (who tabled the amendment with Raab), Frank Field, former policing minister Nick Herbert, former justice minister Crispin Blunt, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady and Liam Fox). This is therefore a cross-party backbench rebellion, but it could also, if Labour is persuaded to abstain, which it could well do, become an amendment that is successfully tacked onto the legislation.
‘This amendment will cut the spurious human rights challenges lodged by convicted killers, rapists and drug dealers to evade deportation, and restore some common sense to our border controls. Having talked about reform for the last three years, it’s time we delivered – that’s what this amendment will do.’
That last sentence is key to why this amendment is so important: part of the nervousness in the Tory party at the moment is as much about politicians sticking to their promises on immigration issues as it is on anything else.
The full text of the amendment is below:
Exceptions to Automatic Deportation
To move the following clause:–
‘(1) The UK Borders Act 2007 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 33 (Exceptions), in subsection (2)(a), for “Convention rights”, substitute “rights under Articles 2 or 3 of the Convention”.
(3) In section 33, after subsection (6A), insert–
“(6B) Exception 7 is where the Secretary of State thinks, taking into account all the circumstances of the case including the seriousness of the offence, that removal of the foreign criminal from the United Kingdom in pursuance of a deportation order would cause such manifest and overwhelming harm to his children that it overrides the public interest in removal.”.
(4) In section 38 (Interpretation)–
(a) after subsection (3) insert–
“(3A) In section 32, “Convention rights” has the same meaning as in the Human Rights Act 1998 (c 42).”;
(b) omit paragraph (4)(b);
(c) after subsection (4) insert–
“(4A) In section 33, “rights under Articles 2 or 3 of the Convention” means Articles 2 or 3 of “the Convention” as defined in the Human Rights Act 1998 (c 42).”.’.
Clause 14, page 13, leave out lines 14 to 39 and insert–
‘“117C Cases involving Foreign Criminals
(1) No decision of the Secretary of State under section 33(6B) (Exceptions) of the UK Borders Act 2007 may be questioned except on appeal to the High Court.
(2) For the purposes of determining whether to give permission to appeal and determining any such appeal under subsection (1) the High Court must apply the procedures and principles which would be applied by it on an application for judicial review.“.’.