Yvette Cooper chose to focus her attack at Home Office questions on the government’s position on Syrian refugees. She continually pushed Theresa May on whether the the Home office would change its position and sign up to the UN’s refugee programme. May replied that the United Kingdom has a ‘fine record’ when it comes to the amount of money it is providing in aid, and has accepted several thousand asylum seekers from Syria. But added that ‘I am indeed working with the Foreign Secretary to look at what further support can be provided by this government and further announcements will be made on that in due course.’
Cooper pressed further, telling her that a minority of refugees did need extra help. She got a better answer: May then told her that there would be a response from the government on this matter before Labour’s opposition day debate on the subject on Wednesday.
But it was an attack from another quarter – Sir Menzies Campbell – that bit far deeper than anything Cooper had attempted. He said:
‘Does my right honourable friend understand that many of us believe that on the matter of Syrian refugees, the United Kingdom, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a particular obligation? How can it be that we’re not able to accept some of the children, who have suffered so grievously as a result of the unrest in Syria. Traumatised, orphaned and in some cases disabled. Surely this is a matter for humanity on the part of this government or are we to allow our moral compass to be set by Mr Nigel Farage?’
May defended the UK’s record, and reiterated that she will offer a response in the next few days, but this does mean that Labour will be able to claim a political victory, suggesting that it was their opposition day vote that brought matters to a head. When some MPs saw this U-turn coming last month, it seems odd that it should take so long for ministers to make up their mind and appear to be in thrall to politicking in the Chamber, rather than the serious matter itself.
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