'It'll consign more people to slavery': Theresa May leads Tory rebellion calling for concessions on small boats bill

12 July 2023, 01:02 | Updated: 12 July 2023, 06:49

Senior Tories rebel as Theresa May warns Illegal Migration Bill 'will consign more people to slavery'
Senior Tories rebel as Theresa May warns Illegal Migration Bill 'will consign more people to slavery'. Picture: LBC / Alamy

By Danielle DeWolfe

Ministers are facing calls to make further concessions to proposed sweeping asylum reforms, as former PM Theresa May warned the government's Illegal Migration Bill 'will consign more people to slavery'.

Tuesday saw MPs spend more than three-and-a-half hours holding 18 votes in the Commons linked to the government's controversial bill.

The votes saw several amendments to the bill made by the House of Lords overturned.

Mauled by peers, the Illegal Migration Bill saw 20 defeats inflicted on the Government, with widespread demands for revisions.

The former prime minister was one of 16 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government following concerns raised in relation to the bill's modern slavery provisions.

Speaking in the Commons, May said: "We all want to stop the boats … but this bill is not just written to stop the boats, it covers all illegal migration and its unwritten subtext is the stop-certain-victims’-claims-of-slavery bill.

Former prime minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons, London, during the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. Picture date: Tuesday July 11, 2023.
Former prime minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons, London, during the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. Picture date: Tuesday July 11, 2023. Picture: Alamy

As part of the string of votes which ran late into the evening, MPs chose to reject a Lords amendment which required the Illegal Migration Bill to follow international conventions.

Speaking on the bill, May said that if Lords amendment 56 is overthrown, it would “consign more people to slavery – no doubt about it”.

Mrs May told the Commons: "I know that ministers have said this Bill will enable more perpetrators to be stopped, but on modern slavery I genuinely believe it will do the opposite.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the bill is “comfortably the worst piece of legislation” he has seen pass through the House of Commons.

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The former PM added: "We all want to stop the boats … but this bill is not just written to stop the boats, it covers all illegal migration and its unwritten subtext is the stop-certain-victims’-claims-of-slavery bill.
The former PM added: "We all want to stop the boats … but this bill is not just written to stop the boats, it covers all illegal migration and its unwritten subtext is the stop-certain-victims’-claims-of-slavery bill. Picture: LBC / Alamy

"The evidence of the police is clear: if you want victims to provide evidence to bring slave drivers to justice, the victims need time, they need support and they need to be here," May continued.

She said the bill “ties the hands of the police” and “undoes the good work of the modern slavery act”.

May added that the bill would "consign more people to slavery – no doubt about it. If Lords amendment 56 is overthrown that will be the impact."

The Home Office offered several concessions at the start of the week, including on time limits for the detention of children and pregnant women as well as removing a clause so the law, if enacted, will no longer apply retrospectively from when it was first announced in March.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick speaking in the House of Commons, London, during the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. Picture date: Tuesday July 11, 2023.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick speaking in the House of Commons, London, during the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill. Picture date: Tuesday July 11, 2023. Picture: Alamy

The Government overturned a number of amendments on Tuesday, but faced criticism from its own benches.

It follows the news that immigration Minister Robert Jenrick was accused of inhumanity after the Kent Intake Unit for unaccompanied child asylum seekers painted over a mural of welcoming children's characters.

He told the House of Commons that the reception centre was painted over because it was not age-appropriate to the children who would be arriving.

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