What has happened to the Immigration Bill? I asked this question last week, and as it still doesn’t have a date for the report stage, it’s worth asking the question again. Now I hear that Number 10 has been holding crisis talks to try to get the legislation, which has been derailed by Nigel Mills’ troublemaking amendment calling for transitional controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants to be extended until the end of 2018. Yesterday, Mills and colleagues were summoned to Number 9 Downing Street, to talk to the chief whip and the Prime Minister’s backbench envoy John Hayes. The whips have previously approached Mills trying to strike a deal whereby he withdrew the amendment, but he has continually refused to do so, much to the delight of the colleagues who have co-ordinated this particular revolt.
So the Bill continues to be held in stalemate, with the whips telling backbenchers that they cannot progress to report stage until the amendment is withdrawn, and backbenchers telling the whips they will do no such thing. The rebels are clear that even if the thumbscrews were applied to Nigel Mills and he decided that he’d get something out of withdrawing it, another MP would quickly re-table the clause themselves.
All of this, it is worth remembering, is a row about an amendment extending controls which have already lifted to a bill that was introduced largely to calm backbenchers down.