Westminster update: home secretary gives statement on Channel tragedy

Your weekly update from our public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in Parliament and across Whitehall.

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What you need to know

1. Home secretary gives statement on Channel tragedy

On Thursday 25 November, the home secretary gave a statement to the House of Commons on the deaths in the Channel on 24 November.

She began by expressing sorrow and sympathy for the loved ones of those who have died, and then welcomed president Macron’s “determination to stop the vile people smuggling gangs and, importantly, to work closely with all partners across Europe”.

She went on to argue that there is currently a “global migration crisis” and that there was no “quick fix”.

Suggesting that the way to prevent these tragedies was to address “long-term pull factors”, she advocated coordinated international effort.

Patel judged the UK’s approach to asylum seekers and refugees as “clear… generous, humane” and said that the government’s work to end crossings is not because “we don’t care and we’re heartless”.

She listed elements of the new plan for immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill that she argued would form part of a long-term solution, including:

  • “the one-stop appeals process
  • the ability to process claims outside the country
  • the ability to declare inadmissibility to our asylum system and have differentiation for those who arrive in the UK having passed through safe countries, and
  • “life sentences for people smugglers”

Before taking questions from MPs, she reiterated the government’s assertion that people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, saying “nobody needs to flee France in order to be safe”. She also observed that maritime tactics for the UK Border Force have been approved, including boat turn-arounds.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds spoke of his sympathies for those lost and their loved ones left behind.

He pressed the home secretary on law enforcement cooperation with France, and on “properly managed safe and legal routes”.

He asked if the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied children would reopen, and for an update on the Afghanistan resettlement scheme.

He closed by saying the opposition “will not support a bill that breaches the refugee convention and damages our standing around the world”.

Conservative backbencher Sir Edward Leigh claimed that “we have to face down the human rights lawyers” as an aside in a short speech extolling the virtues of the pushback methods of Greece and the offshore processing conducted by Australia.

The home secretary did not respond to the point on lawyers, but in an answer to the SNP’s Patrick Grady she did say that the government is looking to legislate “so that individuals are not constantly using the appeals process and the UK legal aid system to frustrate the government’s ability to remove people from our country who have no legal basis to stay”.

Read the home secretary’s statement

2. Judicial Review and Courts Bill completes committee stage

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill finished its committee stage in the House of Commons on Tuesday 23 November.

The final sitting of the bill committee saw debate on two new clauses proposed by Conservative MPs Sir John Hayes and Tom Hunt, which aimed to:

  • exclude review of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal
  • limit the use of oral evidence and remove disclosure obligations in judicial review cases

Both new clauses were ultimately withdrawn after the minister argued that now is not the right time to consider those two issues.

Over the course of committee stage, we put forward a number of amendments relating to the judicial review provisions of the bill that were tabled by the opposition, as well as briefing MPs on our concerns with other provisions that would:

  • allow online and written indications of plea for unrepresented defendants
  • forfeit a defendant’s right to elect a jury trial if they fail to attend an allocation decision hearing
  • abolish local justice areas

All the amendments we supported were however voted down or withdrawn.

Our head of public law, Ellie Cumbo, gave oral evidence to the bill committee at the outset of its deliberations, and our views and recommendations were cited a further nine times in the subsequent debates.

The bill will next proceed to report stage, for which a date has not yet been set.

We'll once again brief MPs on our views on the bill, and will seek to put forward amendments addressing our priority concerns.

Read our briefing on the bill

Read the transcript of the bill committee's final sitting

Coming up

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