No one wants to stop the boats more than I do. You’d struggle to find many MPs who have raised it in Parliament as much as I have.
However, I’m also keen to ensure that we have a Bill that works. The reality is I’ve voted for two previous Bills that have not had the impact I would have liked. Yes, small boat crossings are down by a third and the Novotel has now been cleared but we’re still seeing approximately 30,000 people illegally enter our country every year and by and large stay here. This is placing significant pressure on public services, costing a fortune and raising significant issues around community cohesion. It needs to be stopped and I want to see incredibly robust action from the Government to do so.
In principle I agreed with the Bill but had and continue to have concerns about some of its shortcomings. This is why I took the action along with a number of other colleagues of abstaining during the second reading vote. We need a Bill that truly places the sovereignty of our elected Parliament at its heart and ensures that our Parliament reigns supreme. The wishes of our elected Parliament should not be stymied by foreign courts and international law and I’m concerned that as it stands, the Bill (without amendment) is vulnerable to legal challenge. This Bill represents a significant step forward but we’re not quite where we need to do be in ensuring this Bill is fully watertight.
I met with the Prime Minister earlier this week and got assurances that the Bill will be toughened up and that he will meet with myself and colleagues to ensure that the Bill is as robust as it needs to be and doesn’t have any chinks in its armoury. I took the Prime Minister’s assurances in good faith which is why I didn’t vote against the Rwanda Bill at second reading. It’s precisely because I want the Rwanda scheme to work that I have taken the stance I’ve taken. Without a significant deterrent I fail to see how we can break the back of the people smuggling gangs and end the small boat crossings scandal.
I very much hope that early next year I will feel able to fully support the Bill during its third reading. However, I will not lie to my constituents and say this is a great Bill that will achieve all of its aims when I continue to harbour the concerns that I have. It’s never easy to rebel but ultimately, it’s my responsibility to stand up for my constituents and I know how much of an issue this is for the majority of them and I’m determined we get it right.