Small boats bill: Braverman bows to pressure on key amendments to ensure ‘swift’ passage

The government has agreed to alter its illegal migration bill to limit detentions for unaccompanied children in a key concession ahead of the flagship legislation’s return to the commons today. 

The Home Office has said it has introduced “safeguards” following “scrutiny” in the House of Lords. It comes after peers inflicted 20 defeats against the government over the legislation.

Ministers have hence bowed to Conservative backbench demands led by Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, to time limit the detention time of children who enter the UK without a parent or guardian.

The Home Office has now tabled an amendment that unaccompanied children will only be detained for up to eight days rather than the current proposed 28 days. However, for those where their age is disputed, it would be 28 days.

Elsewhere, because of Home Office concessions, more than 10,000 Channel migrants will be spared automatic deportation to Rwanda. It comes after the home secretary abandoned plans to apply the illegal migration bill’s powers of automatic detention and deportation to any migrant who arrived after March 7, the date at which the legislation was introduced to parliament. 

Under the new proposals, the powers will only come into force once the bill has passed through all its parliamentary stages and been granted Royal Assent.

Ministers had wanted the legislation to be retrospective as a deterrent to small boat crossings over the spring and summer.

They considered that this would prevent a surge in migrants seeking to beat the Bill’s later implementation deadline. But nearly 700 people crossed the Channel on small boats on Friday, the largest daily number this year.

In all, peers inflicted 20 defeats on the government which has prompted five concessions to head off further revolts.

The concessions are designed to reduce the chance of “ping pong” between the commons and the Lords over the bill and pave the road for the bill’s eventual passage. 

The decision to not backdate the bill to the March 7 date comes after a successful amendment by Lord Carlile.

A further government amendment will also limit the detention time for pregnant women to 72 hours.

Ahead of the bill’s return to parliament today, Ms Braverman said: “This Bill forms a crucial part of our action to stop the boats and ensure people do not risk their lives by making illegal and unnecessary journeys to the UK.

“Today’s amendments will help this crucial legislation pass through Parliament swiftly, whilst continuing to send a clear message that the exploitation of children and vulnerable people, used by criminals and ferried across the Channel, cannot continue”.