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Busy afternoon for whips as would-be rebels mull controversial stateless plan

7 May 2014

11:48 AM

7 May 2014

11:48 AM

The Immigration Bill pops back up in the Commons today and MPs will have a second chance to scrutinise the government’s plans to deprive foreign-born terror suspects of their citizenship. In reality, it’s their first chance as these proposals were slapped into the legislation by ministers at report stage, and no-one really understood what they meant. Tory MPs were promised a briefing on it after the vote, so they trooped through the lobbies hoping for the best. Now they’ve had a few months to mull what the plans mean, they get a chance to vote again after the Lords amended the bill to make the stateless proposals subject to a committee.

It looks as though the Liberal Democrat rebellion, which numbered seven at report stage, will be a similar size. Duncan Hames, who until late last year worked as Nick Clegg’s PPS, rebelled at report stage, and is likely to rebel again today. He tells me:

‘This power is not what I’d want the Home Secretary to have, but Labour having failed to oppose it in the first place [the Lords amendment introducing a committee] may be the only way to introduce any safeguard into the Bill.’

Similarly, Mike Crockart says his position is unlikely to change in spite of attempts to convince him otherwise.

The Conservative position is a little more complicated. Jacob Rees-Mogg expressed concerns about the two classes of citizenship that this would create, but he has yet to declare how he will vote. It may be that the government keeps a Conservative rebellion in check because the Prime Minister is, as I blogged this morning, enjoying a fair amount of good will from his backbenchers and this tends to keep them from causing trouble. So there may be a group of MPs who are very concerned about the proposal but who do not rebel because it would have little impact. A similar thing happened on the proposals for secret courts in the Justice and Security Bill last year.

But a number of Tory MPs I’ve spoken to this morning still haven’t made up their minds and some only plan to decide during the debate. This could mean a busy afternoon ahead for the whips.

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