Tory backlash against Archbishop after Justin Welby uses House of Lords speech to slam government's migration bill

11 May 2023, 00:05 | Updated: 11 May 2023, 07:05

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby slammed the bill, saying it "has no sense at all of the long term"
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby slammed the bill, saying it "has no sense at all of the long term". Picture: Getty/LBC/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Government ministers have hit back at the Archbishop of Canterbury after he used a speech in the House of Lords to criticise the proposed Illegal Migration Bill.

Justin Welby slammed the bill on Wednesday, saying it "has no sense at all of the long term and the global nature of the challenge that the world faces".

Speaking in the House of Lords, Mr Welby argued against the flagship legislation aimed at ensuring people who arrive in the UK in small boats would be detained and promptly removed.

He said: "It ignores the reality that global migration must be engaged with at source as well as in the Channel as if we as a country were unrelated to the rest of the world."

But government ministers have hit back at the archbishop, with immigration minister Robert Jenrick saying he was “wrong on both counts”.

Mr Jenrick told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that while the government "will listen carefully to all views expressed in the Lords", the "British public expect us to take action".

Robert Jenrick: Tories will do 'everything in their power' to tackle the immigration crisis

Meanwhile, Conservative MP and member of the Home Affairs committee James Daly said: “The unelected archbishop should stick to religion and keep out of politics. He moralises but comes up with no solutions.

"This intervention neither helps the people being smuggled across the Channel in dangerous small boats or the working class communities put under strain by illegal migration.

"This government was democratically elected to implement policies like this."

Read More: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby slams controversial migrants bill as 'morally unacceptable'

"The upper house would do well to remember that any attempt to block it will reveal them to be out of touch the vast majority who voted to control immigration.

"Lords should not forget the will of the British people and back the bill," Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson said, according to the Express.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk urged those in the House of Lords to back their bill as "it is designed to meet the will of the British people in a humane and fair way".

"The Prime Minister does not think it is compassionate or fair to allow people who are jumping the queue over some of the most vulnerable people who are seeking to come here through safe and legal routes," a spokesperson for Rishi Sunak said.

Controversial migrants bill slammed as 'morally unacceptable'

The archbishop argued that the bill does not make any effort to tackle issues that are causing mass migration, including wars and climate change.

"It is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical," he said.

The House of Lords sat from 11am on Wednesday to consider the Illegal Migration Bill at second reading after it passed the Commons, with almost 90 speakers including the archbishop listed.

The Bill includes provisions that would limit the ability of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to prevent the deportation of asylum seekers.

April was the busiest period for small boats so far this year, with 1,850 of this year's 5,652 arrivals making the journey last month.

Aerial view of a Manston migrant processing centre in Kent
Aerial view of a Manston migrant processing centre in Kent. Picture: Alamy

But Mr Welby said the Bill "risks great damage to the UK's interests and reputation at home and abroad, let alone the interests of those in need of protection or the nations who together face this challenge."

He added: "Our interests as a nation are closely linked to our reputation for justice and the rule of law, and to our measured language, calm decision, and careful legislation. None of those are seen here."

Read More: Channel migrants are often 'lower-skilled people' and represent 'burden on the British state', Robert Jenrick tells LBC

He went on: "We need a Bill to reform migration. We need a Bill to stop the boats. We need a Bill to destroy the evil tribe of traffickers. The tragedy is that without much change this is not that Bill.

"This Bill fails to take a long term and strategic view of the challenges of migration and undermines international co-operation rather than taking an opportunity for the UK to show leadership."

Illegal Migration Bill is a 'practical' deterrent says Tory MP Tim Loughton

It comes after Mr Jenrick told LBC that migrants crossing the English channel "predominantly don’t speak English, are lower-skilled people" and come from countries "that are quite different to our own".

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr after the government's Illegal Migration Bill was slammed in the House of Lords, Mr Jenrick - the immigration minister - said it is "fundamental" that business models of people smugglers are broken.

"I fundamentally believe you will not do that unless you make it clear that if you come here illegally on a small boat you won't find a route to a life in the UK," he said.

"You’ll either be returned home to a safe country like Albania or a third country like Rwanda.

"That is ultimately the only way to imbue our system with the deterrents that is necessary to break the model."

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