Last week the government put through its Immigration Bill. This piece of legislation will help control the numbers of people coming to settle in the UK, as most agree we need to continue to reduce the number of newcomers. Councils and the NHS are finding it difficult keep up with all the extra demand for homes, healthcare and education. The new law will reduce the number of appeals an individual can undertake against a Borders decision. It will also ask visitors to contribute to the NHS whilst they are here.
Backbench Conservative MPs welcomed and supported this legislation. Three also raised other issues which they wanted the Bill to consider. My neighbour, Philip Lee of Bracknell wanted health screening for new arrivals. Dominic Raab wanted to reduce the use of the right to a family life by people convicted of serious offences who want to stay in the UK afterwards though they are not UK citizens born here. Nigel Mills wanted to re-open the question of the ending of restrictions on new arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania.
None of these backbench proposals found favour with Liberal Democrat members of the government. They used their veto to prevent the government supporting any of them. The amendments by Dr Lee and Mr Mills were not reached during the relatively short period allowed by the government for further debate of the Bill, so we will never know how many Conservatives might have rebelled. These amendments would anyway have been lost, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats against.
Dominic Raab’s amendment was debated and voted on. I supported him, as I agreed with him that the UK authorities and courts should have more power to remove serious foreign criminals from the UK where necessary, without the European Convention on Human Rights being stretched to give them the right to remain here. Conservative backbench MPs were given a free vote on this topic. So we were not as is commonly reported rebelling. Conservative Ministers were whipped to abstain, with the Prime Minister expressing sympathy with the intention behind Mr Raab’s amendment.
Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs combined to vote down Mr Raab’s amendment. As a result useful improvements will survive in the Immigration Bill, but violent foreign criminals who have been found guilty of serious crime in the UK will still b e able to claim a right to family life in the UK .