The Archbishop of Canterbury took aim at the Government’s immigration policy again today as peers began their attempt to water down a new law to tackle Channel boat arrivals.
Justin Welby used a rare speech in the House of Lords to attack the Illegal Immigration Bill, which would make it easier to deport people arriving on the UK’s shores.
He told the upper chamber the law ‘fails to live up to our history, our moral responsibility, and our political and international interests’, and said he would personally table an amendment.
Ahead of the legislation returning to the red benches, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk today urged peers not to stand in the way of the ‘will of the British people’ by blocking the UK Government’s migration policies.
The Archbishop, who crowned Charles III on Saturday, told the chamber that a new law was needed to stop the boats and end the role of ‘evil’ traffickers.
But he added: ‘We need a Bill to reform migration. We need a Bill to stop the boats. We need a Bill to destroy the evil tribe of traffickers. The tragedy is that without much change this is not that Bill.’
The intervention is his second major rebuke of the Government’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
The Archbishop, in a speech to the Lords last year, warned against ‘harmful rhetoric’ that treats those arriving in the UK as ‘invaders’.
He has previously called for a better system based on ‘compassion, justice and co-operation across frontiers’.
This afternoon he highlighted the existing global agreements on refugees, saying: ‘While now inadequate, what those conventions offer is a baseline from which to build a globally shared understanding of what protection must be given to refugees.
‘They are not inconvenient obstructions to get round by any legislative means necessary.’
He added: ‘Even if this Bill succeeded in temporarily stopping the boats, and I don’t think it will, it won’t stop conflict or climate migration.’
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick accused the archbishop of being ‘wrong on both counts’ after the Anglican leader said the plan was ‘morally unacceptable and politically impractical’.
Mr Jenrick told the BBC’s World At One: ‘It’s important that the House of Lords plays its constitutional function scrutinising legislation but I strongly disagree with some of the comments that have been heard in the House of Lords today. This is the right approach.
‘We have to tackle illegal migration and we have to bring control back to our borders.’
Asked about the archbishop’s comments in the Lords earlier on Wednesday, Mr Jenrick said: ‘Well, he’s wrong on both counts.
‘Firstly there’s nothing moral about allowing the pernicious trade of people smugglers to continue… I disagree with him respectfully. By bringing forward this proposal we make it clear that if you come across illegally on a small boat you will not find a route to life in the UK.’
He added: ‘That will have a serious deterrent effect.’
Downing Street defended the Illegal Migration Bill as ‘compassionate and fair’.
Asked whether the Prime Minister believed Justin Welby’s intervention was appropriate, his official spokesman said: ‘Obviously it’s right that the Lords are able to scrutinise this Bill.
‘The Government for its part will continue to robustly defend it.
‘We think it is about an issue of fairness and it is not right to allow people to be preyed upon by criminal gangs.’
Downing Street refused to be drawn on the Archbishop’s criticism specifically but added: ‘The Prime Minister does not think it is compassionate or fair to allow people who are jumping the queue over some of the most vulnerable people who are seeking to come here through safe and legal routes.’
Read More: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby mounts another attack on the Government