The row over the Immigration Bill is by no means over. It will go to the Lords next, where peers will doubtless have a few things to say about certain aspects of it. Theresa May is still in a hurry to get it through Parliament, so there will likely be some interesting tricks from the government side to try to speed things up. But Conservative MPs are also very concerned about something they backed last night which gained far less attention.
The Home Secretary rushed out an amendment on Wednesday night which would render ‘stateless’ foreign-born terror suspects. The details are actually rather alarming: someone who had already naturalised in this country would have their passport taken away from them. Although Conservative backbenchers voted in favour of it, they did so with a great deal of confusion and worry. Some remarked that they had campaigned against similar situations in other countries.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, hardly a soft lefty Conservative, told the Chamber that the proposal could ‘create a potential unfairness and a second category of citizen’ and that he was worried about the sort of message it could ‘send to the nation at large’. In the end, I understand the MPs were bought off by the promise of a briefing on the change and backed it, although a handful of Liberal Democrats – John Leech, Mike Crockart, Julian Huppert, Sarah Teather, David Ward Mike Thornton and intriguingly, Duncan Hames, who was until very recently Nick Clegg’s PPS – voted against. Last night Ken Clarke seemed to think it was a rebel amendment on Question Time, saying:
‘If this is actually a proposition that’s going to be put forward and developed, I would consult my very good friend the Attorney General Dominic Grieve and ask for his opinion and ask him to satisfy me we were doing so in a way that was compatible with the rule of law.’
If the Lords rejects new clause 18, which introduces this policy, and it returns to the Commons for ‘ping-pong’, then Tory MPs will need to have been reassured by the promised briefing. Otherwise the chances are that the whips could find themselves trying to stop another rebellion over a clause that was introduced largely to stop a rebellion.