Lord Roberts’ Immigration Bill Report Stage Speech

Lord Roberts’ Speech for the Immigration Bill Report Stage in the House of Lords

21st March 2016

My Lords, as one who signed the amendment, I am delighted to follow the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Alton. The heart beats strongly on this issue, but it has to beat strongly in the future as well. I imagine that as the years go by, with all sorts of issues such as climate change, war and famine, we will be discussing this issue time and again. We must somehow sort out our approach in the long term, and this is an opportunity to do so. It is an opportunity to say to 3,000 children, “You are welcome in our country”. It is an opportunity to show the world that we are not going to be dragged kicking and screaming into receiving refugee children but that we are happy to do so.

It is seven or eight months since Save the Children started its appeal for 3,000 child refugees, and now we have the chance to bring it into being. What an opportunity for us in the House of Lords today to say, “Yes, we welcome children”. The message will be carried to the Commons, and I do not see that they will be able to resist joining in with that welcome.

Alternatively, we could be hesitant and obstructive and say no, but I do not know what would influence anyone to vote against this amendment. Why should anyone go into the Not Content Lobby against children? Your Lordships had grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers and fathers—surely we can look at other children who are less fortunate than our own and say, “Yes, you are welcome, and we in the House of Lords will raise the banner of hope”. That will demonstrate that we are determined to tackle this problem, not only to Dunkirk, Calais and other places but also to the future.

Let us be brave. Let us have a unanimous vote of welcome today. We do not have to vote against this. We do not just have to say no. I do not know how on earth anyone who is a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or an aunt will be able to say, “We are going into the Lobby to stop these children coming over”. I am delighted to be able to support the amendment.

Correction to a previous question by the Home Office:

The Home Office does not keep electronic records on removals going as far back as 2000. Records of removals on the Immigration Database only go back to 2006. In 2010, 132 778 failed asylum seekers were removed after reaching the age of 18. In 2014, 151 445 failed asylum seekers were removed after reaching the age of 18.