ILPA Briefing for Ping Pong Immigration Bill (for Commons consideration, Lords thereafter) 06 May 2016
Updated with additional resources:
Following the debate in the Commons on Monday 9th May, a link to the debate and Commons consideration of Lords’ amendments are available below.
Notable votes were:
Judicial oversight of detention: This was debated and opposed, but the issue was not pressed to a division. The Government amendment providing for an automatic bail hearing at 4 months therefore carried.
Detention of pregnant women: The Government amendment was agreed to 296 v. 258.
In introducing the Government amendment, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP stated that pregnant women will only be detained if they are shortly to be removed or there are exceptional circumstances. Guidance will also make clear that they should be detained in very exceptional circumstances underlying their expectation in the use of this power.
Opposition MPs indicated they supported an absolute ban, but recognised the movement of the Government to 72 hours and stressed the importance of the safeguards in the Lords amendment. They indicated that they had compromised on their ambition to see a complete ban on pregnant women and that the Government needed to ensure the safeguards were in place: 1) the overriding principle of detention only in the most exceptional circumstances; 2) facilities for appropriate care and 3) oversight of family returns panel.
David Burrowes MP also welcomed the Government’s movement which was more in line with what the coalition government did on children but stressed that the amendment needed to align with the commitment. He raised the issue of the word ‘or’ in detention where shortly to be removed or exceptional circumstances. He made the point that this should be ‘and’ and questioned what circumstances could exist where exceptionality could be met where a pregnant woman was not to be removed shortly.
Refugee children: This was debated following the government announcement on the 4th May that refugee children will be resettled from Europe (details available here). Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP clarified in relation to registration that the Government was not seeking to adopt an overly burdensome or legalistic form of regulation. Children do not need to have registered in Europe to qualify but there does need to be some evidence they were present in Europe before 20 March. The focus would be on family reunion but also on those at risk of exploitation and abuse where it is in the child’s best interests to be resettled.
Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP clarified that the interpretation of the language of the amendment would be a flexible interpretation that is practical and supports the most vulnerable people as intended. The use of the term refugee can include certain asylum seekers and avoid requirement of full refugee determination system. A similar approach is taken in the Syrian Resettlement Scheme. David Burrowes MP stated his understanding that the Minister’s response was an assurance that aligned the amendment with the intention of the press statement and included asylum seekers and family reunion.
There was also pressure from the House to act more quickly, both in terms of resettling children under the scheme and in speeding up the Dublin III system.