Constituents will know that I have a longstanding interest in immigration policy, which I have spoken about at length during the Illegal Migration Bill’s passage through Westminster.
In my opinion, it is important that this legislation succeeds in stopping the boats and breaking the business model of human traffickers operating on the continent. Parliamentarians are, for the most part, united in our wish to reach this objective and are certainly united in our efforts to end human misery. I know that this sentiment is also shared by my constituents who share the ideals of a compassionate asylum system. That being said, I have always been eager to voice my concerns about certain aspects of the Bill that require further refining. As I have set out in Westminster, how this legislation will operate on the ground is yet to be seen.
This evening, I had one final chance to contribute to the debate on this Bill. In my speech, I set out my own experience with legislation having worked in local government for 24 years, where I have seen the real-world impact of successive Government policy. I saw how policy was implemented on the ground and how it often fell short; leaving those on the front line at places like Heathrow Airport unable to enact a fair asylum visa system.
We have heard that this legislation will clash with important legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act and the Children Act. It is the victims of trafficking who are the most vulnerable. I have seen first-hand at the Margaret Cassidy House and at Charville Lane children’s home in Hillingdon the risk they still face upon arrival. In my time on Hillingdon Council, I saw the frustration of local services as we were unable to arrest those actively seeking to traffic children both here in the UK and across Europe.
These conflicts led me to my final point. The Bill doesn’t take away the obligations of local authorities under the Children Act, the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 or the Modern Slavery Act, or the other many obligations on local authorities yet places opposing obligations on the same authorities. I remain concerned that in six months time, there will be a flurry of judicial reviews due to this conflict. I have raised this previously, and I am still waiting for reassurances on this matter.
The Illegal Migration Bill is nearing the completion of its parliamentary scrutiny; the Government hopes that this will be completed prior to Parliament adjourning for summer recess. There is still time for the Government to compromise and for the Lords to provide final scrutiny on this matter.