MPs are hard at work in the Chamber tonight: once they’ve finished voting on the Leveson amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill, they’ll move on to everything else in this piece of legislation. And everything else includes that amendment signed by over 100 MPs on Tory and Labour benches which limits the ability of foreign criminals to resist deportation.
The Leveson debate has been a bit of a gift to ministers, as this big proposal would have enjoyed far greater attention had the Chamber not ben more exercised over press regulation. But that hasn’t stopped a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter going out from Theresa May to Conservative MPs to explain why the government isn’t supporting this call. The letter, which I’ve seen, was sent this evening by George Hollingberry, May’s PPS, and explains that ministers ‘strongly support the intention behind the amendment’, but that ‘our courts would declare it incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights’, and the amendment would therefore be ‘counter-productive’. The letter adds:
‘This is because, if the amendment passes both Houses of Parliament and becomes law, the Secretary of State will be required to act in accordance with it and make deportation orders notwithstanding the UK’s other ECHR obligations. While this may sound appealing, it would in fact significantly undermine our ability to deport foreign criminals.’
May says the situation the government is currently in underlines why it should address the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights, but ‘given the constraints of Coalition, that will have to wait until the next general election’. In the meantime, she writes, ‘The government will do what it can to limit the abuse of human rights in a way that is consistent with our status as a signatory to the ECHR’. She also offers to speak to any MPs who are worried about the amendment, ‘and about the Government’s intention to bring forward primary legislation later this year’.
Earlier, I reported that a number of PPSs had asked their whips if they could support this amendment. It is unlikely that any of them will do so tonight, as to do so without government backing would lose them their jobs. But there could still be significant support for the proposal from Dominic Raab on both the Conservative and Labour benches.
UPDATE, 11.15pm: Parliamentary time limits mean the Bill has now moved to third reading without any time for Raab to move his amendment.Tags: Crime and Courts Bill, deportation, Justice, Theresa May, UK politics