Tory whips and publicans are the only people smiling in parliament tonight, after a mammoth three and a half hour voting session on amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. The House of Commons bars are now rammed with MPs, who spent the afternoon debating and voting on changes to the government’s plans to ‘stop the boats.’
Divisions began just after ten to five and wrapped up shortly after 8:30 p.m. All the amendments put down by the House of Lords were defeated by the government across 18 divisions, with Steve Baker quoting one MP as saying in the voting lobby that they had ‘enjoyed the first 16’. It is, by some stretch, the most number of back to back votes cast in this parliament.
Ministers expected to win in the Commons tonight, given their working majority of 60 and yesterday’s concessions by the Home Office. These include protections for children, pregnant women and stopping the removal provision applying retroactively from when the Bill was introduced, rather than when it becomes law.
The sheer number of amendments though was testament to the strength of feeling in the House of Lords about the gravity of the measures proposed in this legislation. And those concerns are shared by some Tory MPs too, with 15 including Damian Green, David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith among those who voted against the government’s alternative amendments to maintaining a time limit for detaining separated children.
The legislation now goes back to the Lords as we enter the final stages of parliamentary ping-pong, with the government keen to have Royal Assent granted before the summer recess. Critics in the Lords will take heart from Sunak’s backbench critics, including Theresa May who warned in this afternoon’s debate that this Bill will undermine Britain’s modern slavery efforts.