When the Government recently won an election with such a majority of seats (although not so many votes) it was always a risk that they would quickly inhabit a position of arrogance. Unfortunately their decision to ignore the various checks and balances that they have previously introduced will now place our nation in a position of huge risk in the near future. The response from the House of Lords as articulated by a number of Peers including the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler was very clear over a number of the amendments for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. Paul spoke very clearly on Tuesday making the following comments as part of his speech on the issue of the refugee amendment which the Lords supported very clearly. As a result of the House of Lords influence and local people’s point of view, the DUP MPs supported the amendment this time around, even though they rejected it last week, so they have followed the checks and balances. However but the Tories have chosen to ignore them and because of their numbers they will prevent this amendment from being included in the Departure Bill, even though they supported it in the previous version of the Bill when Theresa May was the Prime Minister. The Bishop stated:
“This debate resonates with the nativity story, the story of a child fleeing persecution. The voices of these children are too often drowned out by conflict and violence, by traffickers and by political leaders. Let this House speak on their behalf by voting for the amendment. …..The proposed removal appears to be the Government saying, “Well, we never really wanted the Dubs amendments, so now here is a chance to remove them.” I note that in the Conservative Party manifesto there is a reference to welcoming refugees, but the lack of a specific reference to child refugees and family reunion simply adds to public concern. …..From these Benches, my right reverend colleagues and I view this issue as a moral bell-wether for the future of our country. We want to be known as a country that is welcoming, compassionate and committed to playing our full part in responding to the deep issues that arise from the reality of refugees around the world. I believe that the Minister and the Government want to act with compassion; it is simply that what is proposed does not convey this. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, mentioned that, for some, this is cast as an issue of trust. Do we trust that the Government will deliver their promises to vulnerable children without legislative assurance in the EU withdrawal Bill? However, to my mind, this is a matter not simply of trust but of priority. Where do the Government’s priorities lie?”
Along with the checks and balances in the House of Lords and the general public there is the Scottish and Northern Ireland Assemblies who have both rejected the current bill, but the Government has chosen to overturn their commitment to getting the assemblies to approve such legislation. According to Stephen Barclay, this is a unique Bill and so the Government is prepared to ignore the normal rules. The irony of course is that this Bill will impact Scotland and Northern Ireland much more than any other and this should be the time to engage with them and seek to get an agreement. As the first image shows above on the top left hand corner, some people judge our checks and balances to be much weaker than the USA ones. It seems inevitable that we will damage our nation as a result of these very damaging decisions.