Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Faulks. My noble friend Lady Verma has just given an exceptionally powerful speech, and I was very pleased to be in the Chamber to hear it. Like her, I have not heard as many speeches in today’s debate as I would have liked, because I have been attending to other parliamentary business in the Moses Room. However, I am quite sure that there will have been lots of speeches by distinguished noble Lords drawing on their expertise, and particularly their legal expertise. My own perspective paints a bigger picture; while it will, I am sure, go against the majority of opinion expressed in this House so far today, it is a perspective I would like to give.

Earlier this month in a debate about the standing of parliamentary democracy, I said that the Post Office scandal illustrates powerfully what is driving many voters’ disaffection: namely, that those of us in positions of authority do not listen or take seriously what voters are telling us when what they say or want does not correspond with what we have decided is right and want to do. The same is true in how we react to the majority’s demand for lower levels of legal immigration and an end to the large numbers of illegal migrants entering and staying in our country. Instead of working together over the last eight years to address one of the underlying causes of Brexit, we have decided that the real problem is that, at best, the voters do not understand why they are wrong and cannot have what they want, or, at worst, they are bigoted for their views.

As I have said before in other debates, people do not expect simple solutions to complex problems but they do expect people such as us to be motivated by the kinds of simple values that any decent, upstanding citizen instinctively shares. We evidence that to them by how we do our job, which must include listening and showing that we understand their experience of the problem that only we have the power to fix.

The travesty of our collective response to the public’s demand that we—the whole of Parliament—get a grip on illegal immigration is that, time and again, convinced that we know better, we have chosen to stand alongside those who enter our country illegally and about whom we know nothing over our fellow citizens who are affected by our decisions and who we rely on to pay their taxes, abide by the law and generally keep the country afloat. When it comes to immigration, our repeated efforts to thwart what the majority have voted for are the clearest representation of the division between insiders and outsiders that led to Brexit and all the other democratic shocks that have since followed. That a majority of Members of this House persist in obstructing at every and any opportunity all measures to deal with illegal immigration shows voters that we have learned nothing and nothing has changed.

To those who argue that a majority do not support this Bill, I argue that it is hardly surprising that people who want tougher action to prevent illegal immigration are losing faith in our ability to succeed. We have done nothing to show that we want to. To be clear, it is normal for people who are angry and want us to clamp down hard on illegal migration to be at the same time welcoming of those who come to this country via approved schemes. My friends and family in Beeston Rylands, the area where I grew up, and which has recently become home to hundreds of people from Hong Kong, are testimony to that.

Whether or not the Rwanda scheme is implemented, it will likely do little to change the Conservative Party’s prospects come the next general election. That is not why I support the Bill and doing whatever it takes to deter people from attempting to enter our country illegally. For me, this is about our duty to deliver what people voted for, regardless of our own politics. The fact that we are having to consider a Bill that is causing so much angst among noble Lords is, in my view, a result of our collective failure.

People go on about populism and populist politicians and how they need to be counteracted. Perhaps those same people should consider why people are pushed towards populism and populist politicians in the first place. Unless we start listening and taking seriously what the majority of voters want, and work together to improve conditions for them—because they are the people who uphold all that we as a country say we stand for—we should not be surprised if they deliver for us yet more electoral shocks.