Remember that rather curious change to the Immigration Bill that would render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’ that ministers managed to sneak through while most MPs were in a tizz about Dominic Raab? Well, it’s facing its first major battle in the House of Lords soon, with a group of peers tabling an amendment which would in effect neuter it or spark a row in the Commons.
The new clause, tabled by crossbenchers Lord Pannick and Lord Brown, Lib Dem former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald and Labour’s Baroness Smith, proposes setting up a committee of MPs and peers to consider whether the stateless policy should go ahead.
This proposal is the sort of thing that peers love because it sounds nice and reasonable and as though it is allowing more time for deep consideration and scrutiny of a proposal. Which makes it the sort of thing that ministers, keen to get the darned thing on the statute books, hate as it slows everything up. It also has two respected crossbenchers in Brown and Pannick – and Brown could well encourage some Toryish votes along with him – and an expert in Macdonald. Peers were not particularly satisfied by the explanations the government offered at report stage – and Lord Taylor of Holbeach who offered the explanations didn’t seem that happy either, telling the Lords that ‘I apologise for not answering all the questions but I have done my best’.
Labour will whip its peers to support the measure too. I understand that the party will also try to amend any government amendments which try to duck the issue. The clause will be debated at report stage of the Bill on 7 April, and ministers will need to get cracking to avoid this amendment passing so that it doesn’t return to the Commons, where many MPs were most unsettled by the proposal which they felt bounced into supporting. The last thing the Coalition needs is another row about immigration when so little is going on in Parliament.