Ritchie Shares Concerns In Lords Over Immigration Bill

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday (22 July), Lady Ritchie made a short speech during the second reading of the Immigration and Social Security Bill.

She said that the the Bill is not compliant with the Good Friday Agreement and there is nothing to ensure equal treatment in the Common Travel Area.

“This Bill brings me great sadness. It embeds and promotes a Brexit that has all the hallmarks of a disaster for the British people and which, I will remind this House, Northern Ireland did not vote for.

The Ending of Free Movement

“This legislation ends the free movement of citizens of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland to the UK. At a stroke, that diminishes this country. It breaks family ties, damages our economy, creates huge obstacles for employers and degrades international research, cooperation and understanding.

Lady Margaret Ritchie of  Downpatrick
Lady Margaret Ritchie of Downpatrick.

“Frankly, it is a powerful demonstration of how common sense within the British government has finally slipped its moorings.

“It makes aliens of European citizens with whom we have shared common bonds for well over 30 years. That is a tragedy, and I do not believe it is what people voted for in the referendum in 2016.”

Ms Richie added: “I have particular concerns about specific parts of this Bill that go beyond the obvious risk of creating another Windrush disaster.  That would once again show that there are times when the UK’s callousness is matched only by its incompetence.

“The ending of freedom of movement will cause severe disruption to UK citizens living in the EU. It will also make European nationals coming here potentially subject to the full force of our harsh and often disproportionate immigration detention procedures.

“This bill offers a chance to amend those procedures, and the one good thing it could do is to create a fairer and more compassionate regime for those who can be locked up indefinitely without ever having done anything wrong.

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission believes that this legislation presents us with an opportunity to ensure that immigration detention is used only as a time-limited measure of last resort. I agree.

“The introduction of a 28-day limit on holding people, a requirement for a judge to authorise detention beyond 72 hours and the introduction of statutory criteria to keep the use of detention to a minimum would all be important and welcome steps in humanising powers that cause great concern and discomfort.

“Finally, I note that an opportunity to regularise the position of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland who do not also hold UK nationality has not been taken in this Bill.

“Despite the safeguards of the Common Travel Area*, this potentially leaves these citizens open to deportation. The Good Friday Agreement guarantees their rights. It is time for the British government to fulfil its obligations here, and I call on ministers to do so.”

(Note: * The Common Travel Area : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/common-travel-area-guidance/common-travel-area-guidance