The Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the Illegal Migration Bill in a dramatic intervention in the House of Lords.
Justin Welby said there were “too many problems for one speech” with draft legislation which would see people who arrive in the UK in small boats detained and promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.
The unelected chamber began sitting at 11am to consider the Bill at second reading after it passed the Commons, with almost 90 speakers including the Archbishop listed.
Speaking just before midday, Mr Welby told peers: “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 utterly to take a long-term and strategic view of the challenges of migration and undermines international cooperation.
“Rather than taking an opportunity for the UK to show leadership as we did in 1951.
“There are too many problems for one speech in this bill.
“I hope the Government will listen to the speeches today pointing out some of the issues.”
The intervention marks his second major rebuke of the Government’s migrant policy.
Ahead of the legislation returning to the red benches, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk urged peers not to stand in the way of the “will of the British people” by blocking the UK Government’s migration policies.
Writing jointly for Times Red Box, the two Cabinet ministers said: “We urge the House of Lords to look at the Illegal Migration Bill carefully, remember it is designed to meet the will of the British people in a humane and fair way, and back the Bill.”
The Bill was expected to come up against stiff opposition as it faced its first test in the upper chamber.
Liberal Democrat Lord Paddick, a former senior police officer, has proposed a so-called fatal motion to the proposed legislation, aimed at stopping it in its tracks at its first Lords hurdle.
His amendment argues the draft legislation would see Britain fail to meet its international law commitments, allow ministers to ignore the directions of judges and undermine “the UK’s tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees”, while failing to tackle the backlog of asylum cases or people smuggling gangs.
However, the blocking bid is destined to fail without the backing of the main opposition.
A Labour source said: “We’re not supporting the motion. If successful, which they never are, the Government could just Parliament Act the Bill in the next King’s Speech and peers would lose the opportunity to make any amendments.
“It is therefore an irresponsible way to deal with legislation that has already gone through the the elected House.”
Rishi Sunak has staked his premiership on getting a grip on Channel crossings with the issue one of his top five priorities.
More than 45,000 people made the dangerous journey in rubber dinghies last year and more than 6,000 have arrived so far this year.
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