Peers try to scupper small boats bill with transport worker prison guard jibe

Braverman says Labour has 'no plan' on small boats

Leftwing peers in the House of Lords are trying to scupper the Illegal Migration Bill complaining it will “conscript” transport staff on trains, planes and boats into “prison guards.”

Members of the Lords led by Labour peers and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have been fighting hard to prevent the Government from bringing in legisaltion to protect Britain’s borders.

Despite 60,000 illegal migrants arriving on small boats across the English Channel last year and many thousands more by other means they want to prevent the authorities from being empowered to send people back to their countries or the last safe state the departed from.

Dudley North Conservative MP Marco Longhi, a member of the rightwing Common Sense Group, said: “This latest gimmick from the lefty Lords shows that they are not being serious scrutineers of legislation, they trying to wreck the Bill at any cost.

“All this also does is lend further argument to those in favour of Lords reform – and this is coming from an MP who has always supported Parliament as it is. It used to work well, but it doesn’t anymore.”

During the committee stage of the Bill tonight in the upper chamber, members of the Lords objected to the possibility that transport workers may have to act as prison guards with illegal migrants.

The Government argues the provisions already apply under existing legislation, but are needed in the latest plans to cover the fast-track removal of those arriving in the UK by unauthorised means.

Labour peer Lord Davies of Brixton said: “Requiring transport workers going about their normal work to undertake state service… does constitute a form of conscription. For the seafarers its effectively a return of the press gang.”

He added: “It is clearly a matter of concern to transport workers that they will be required to undertake actions when the Government is unable to provide them with an assurance that in doing so they are not impinging upon an individual’s human rights.”

He said: “Transport workers are routinely advised not to put themselves in situations of conflict when performing their contractual duties. They signed up to provide a transport service and not to act as untrained and inexperienced prison guards.”

Labour peer Lord Woodley, who served as joint general secretary of Unite and also led the the Transport and General Workers’ Union, said: “It is somewhat disgraceful the minister is seeking to make transport workers responsible for detaining and even restraining asylum seekers. An idea that shows total disregard for workers’ ethical views and legal obligations.”

Labour former shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti said: “Some of these people will be desperate and will resort to desperate means to escape removal.”

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Arguing that transport workers should not be “charged with this task”, she added: “It is not safe, it is not ethical and nothing good will come of it.”

Responding, Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth pointed out the provisions related to scheduled and chartered services rather than private transport.

He said: “The Government here is not making transport workers or operators undertake immigration functions.
“Nor are the provisions… about commandeering vessels or vehicles. We can and do make arrangements for removal by scheduled services or chartered services.

“Nor are these new requirements, but they reflect provisions which are already in place.”

Lord Murray went on: “Having placed a person on board a ship, aircraft, train or vehicle for their removal from the UK, it is only reasonable that the Secretary of State or an immigration officer may require the relevant captain, manager or driver to prevent a person disembarking whilst that vehicle, ship, aircraft or train is still in the UK.

“And effectively keep that person in their custody until they reach the destination.”

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