March 14, 2023 2.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

Illegal Migration Bill is “only compassionate option”, Skegness MP says

The MP has been at the forefront of the debate

By Local Democracy Reporter

A Lincolnshire MP has called for “mainstream moderate” politicians to act now in tackling migrant boat crossings – pledging his passionate backing of a highly controversial government bill.

The Illegal Migration Bill has been a national topic of conversation ever since it was announced by the Home Office last week.

It aims to tackle one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five key priorities – stopping migrants from making the potentially fatal journey to the United Kingdom via small boats across the English Channel.

Anyone found to have entered the country illegally would be removed from the UK within 28 days and blocked from claiming British citizenship in the future, under the proposed plans.

The second reading of this bill passed through the Commons on Monday evening by 312 votes to 250, with almost all ‘yes’ votes coming from Conservative MPs.

However, criticism has been reserved for the bill by opposition, with some suggesting that the proposals break international law and could face legal battles in the courts.

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Nine of Greater Lincolnshire’s MPs voted in favour of the bill, with Great Grimsby’s Lia Nici and Brigg & Goole’s Andrew Percy not recording a vote.

Among those voting in favour of it was Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness. His constituency has been at the epicentre of the migrant debate, following the housing of people seeking asylum at a number of Skegness hotels.

He passionately supported the bill and defended the government, saying that “mainstream moderates” in the Commons have to act in order to prevent “racists and the extremists of the far left” from taking over the narrative.

“Many in this House (of Commons) want to say that the Government are inciting people’s worst instincts on immigration. I want to say optimistically that, ultimately, it is not the Bill, the Home Secretary or the Government who are causing that feeling.

“In fact, they are in touch with the widespread symptoms of it from people—decent people—in constituencies like mine up and down the country, and we have to heed those views.

“In my judgment, enough of the fine people of Skegness say, accurately, that they are already doing a huge amount.

“They say that asking them to do even more has untold consequences. They say, in short, that endless numbers cannot be made to feel welcome if they worry that the town they are staying in will never be the same again, in part because of it.

“When enough people feel that way, we mainstream moderates in this House have to act, because if we do not, we should know that it is the racists and the extremists of the far left and the far right who will take our place.

“We have already seen Patriotic Alternative march in Skegness. If, however, we act now, there is a chance to stop decent British people withdrawing their consent.

“That is why the aims of the Bill are not just compassionate; they are the only compassionate option. They are the most compassionate way: breaking the business model of both the people smugglers and those who buy hotels to sell back to the Home Office at profiteers’ rates. All that has to end.”

Hundreds of people took to Parliament Square on Monday to protest the bill while it was debated by MPs.

The bill itself had lost some of its public scrutiny in recent days, after the narrative shifted towards the opinions of BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, and the subsequent fallout of what is and isn’t impartial for the national public-funded broadcasting company.

South Holland and The Deepings MP Sir John Hayes (left) and Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh (right)

Two more Lincolnshire MPs, Sir Edward Leigh and Sir John Hayes, gave statements to the Commons in favour of the bill, with the former claiming that “every single hotel” in the country is “rapidly” filling up with migrants.

South Holland & The Deepings’ member Sir John Hayes called for “tough action” and claimed the asylum system was being “gamed” while the British public are “taken for a ride”.

The Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman went on to say that it is crucial for the government to acknowledge that we can always “do better”.

He warned this issue has become so large in his constituency that it is now about democracy itself rather than stopping boat crossings.

Mr Warman concluded: “I want to end by saying that we do need to have safe routes from dangerous countries and we do need to have provisions for men and women who are trafficked, and for children who are taken by irresponsible adults to these shores, but we must not use those hard cases to pretend that we cannot do better than where we are today.

“If we do not, compassion will cede the ground to ignorance and hatred. We have to act, or we will stretch the licence that voters give us to act on their behalf beyond breaking point.

“In Skegness, I am not exaggerating when I say that for some, this is an issue about democracy and the effectiveness of government itself.

“The Bill is not just about stopping the boats; it is about stopping that democratic tragedy. That is just one reason why I will be proud to support the Bill.”

Martin Vickers is the Conservative MP for Cleethorpes.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers also landed his support to the bill, saying: “I welcome the Illegal Migration Bill. The present chaotic system only benefits the criminal gangs who mastermind the channel crossings.

“It is dangerous for those who risk their lives in the small boats and unfair to the British taxpayer who has to meet the costs of accommodation, often in hotels in locations that are completely unsuitable.

“With the co-operation of our European neighbours, who themselves are struggling to accommodate asylum seekers, we must deal with this issue.

“At a time when there is so much unrest across the globe we must have a proper and orderly system of  dealing with migration issues.”

All other Greater Lincolnshire MPs who voted in favour of the bill have been contacted for comment.


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