Defeat on the horizon: Cameron once again at the mercy of his backbenchers

Defeat on the horizon: Cameron will struggle to survive Tory rebellions.
Defeat on the horizon: Cameron will struggle to survive Tory rebellions.
Ian Dunt By

David Cameron faces a double parliamentary defeat this week, after the government tabled the immigration bill without knowing whether it could win a majority in the Commons.

In a sign of a return to the bad old days of his relationship with his backbenchers, the prime minister faced defeat on a proposal to extend transitional controls for Romanians and Bulgarians and another removing the right to family life for foreign criminals.

Ministers are unable to back down to rebel demands which would be considered illegal under EU and UK law, but Tory Nigel Mills, who is leading the charge on transitional controls, refused to rule out the bill 'crashing out' altogether.

Around 50 MPs back the idea of extending transitional controls until 2019, despite Downing Street demands to get him to back down.


Dominic Raab has collected the support of 105 MPs for his amendment on foreign criminals claiming their Article 8 right to family life.

Under the proposal, courts would have to order the deportation of foreign criminals jailed for a year or more unless they faced death or torture or if deportation would not be in the "overwhelming humanitarian interests" of their children.

The amendment would be illegal under the Human Rights Act but it has cross party support at senior levels, including David Blunkett, Frank Field, the DUP's Nigel Dodds and Tories David Davis, Andrew Mitchell and Liam Fox.

If Labour abstain from the vote, there is a good chance of the amendment succeeding.

Discussing the amendments this morning, Cameron said he intended to "get immigration down to responsible levels".

The comment suggests Cameron may be starting to backtrack on his previous commitment to get immigration down to the "tens of thousands".

But he will be more worried by the immediate prospect of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his own backbenchers, bringing back the memory of his fraught relationship with his parliamentary party before the arrival of election strategist Lynton Crosby.

"I completely understand and in many ways share the frustrations of colleagues who would like us to go further," Mr Cameron told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We extended the transitional controls from five years to seven years. Those seven years are now up. We are not allowed under the current rules to extend them further.

"We paused the Bill over Christmas and now I think we can see, at the start of the year, so far there looks to be a reasonable level of migration.

"I hope we can make progress with the Bill because it does so many other good things."

Labour MP Diane Abbot said the rebellions were proof of "real antagonism" towards Cameron from his backbenchers.

"Nigel Mills is wishing for the impossible and if I was a Tory whip I would be ringing my hands at this moment because he has not ruled out crashing the bill. That's incredible," she added.

Other sections of the immigration bill have been branded 'ID cards by the backdoor' for the way they force doctors real estate agents and driving instructors to check people's immigration status before offering services.

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