Concern is growing across the House of Commons about Theresa May’s last-minute amendment to the Immigration Bill rendering foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’. Today on Radio 4’s the Week in Westminster, I interviewed Laura Sandys and Mark Reckless, two Tory MPs who occupy rather different ends of the Conservative spectrum. But both expressed discomfort with this proposal, and were clear they’d voted for it because they’d been promised a briefing afterwards. This is what Sandys said:
‘I supported it after I was assured that we would have a proper debrief and discuss it after it had gone through the House of Lords, and I am quite concerned about it, I don’t think that it is a good default position to be in, I do not like legislation on the statute book that could be used by a very different sort of Home Secretary in a different climate in a different way, so I will look forward to getting a little bit more reassurance on those particular matters.’
‘There was some suspicion that it was intended to prevent a debate and vote on Nigel Mills’ amendment about Bulgarian and Romanian restrictions. I, like Laura, have some concerns about this. I did vote for it, I wasn’t actually sure whether to support it or abstain. In the end I did vote for it.
‘But I’m not sure it’s good enough for us to have a debrief afterwards or rely on the House of Lords, I mean, so far this year we’ve had 144 hours of Parliamentary time in the Commons. Only 33 of that has actually been used for legislation and within that this really crucial Immigration Bill was squeezed to four and a half hours of debate of which the Home Secretary’s opening speech took up one third and I just don’t think that is the sufficient level of Parliamentary scrutiny, particularly from the elected Chamber, who ultimately must be responsible for this legislation.’
This amendment was snuck in at the last minute. There is some suspicion on the Liberal Democrat side that it would never have been in the Bill had it been raised as part of the proper negotiations before the legislation was published. It will be interesting to see both what the Lords makes of the proposal, and how MPs respond when it returns for ‘ping-pong’.