I, too, want to focus on the issue of children. The hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) discussed the coalition Government effectively banning the detention of children in 2014, which we all welcomed. I was part of the campaign to achieve that ban, because of my experience of the detention of children in Harmondsworth detention centre in my constituency. I visited those children, and when we explained to the world what they were going through, how they were traumatised and what impact that was having on them and their families, the world recoiled. We decided we would never have such a regime again, but my fear is that, gradually and incrementally, we are reverting to it. That is why I support Lords amendments 8, 50, 51, 31, 33 and 89.

First, I am concerned that we are bringing forward legislation that makes it inadmissible for unaccompanied children who come via the channel route to apply for asylum. Yet 96% of them, I think, actually get refugee status, which shows what need they have.

I am also worried about what happens to children who are detained. I am concerned that we are potentially reverting to the brutal regime of the past. When children were detained in detention centres and even other accommodation, the mental health impact was gauged as extremely severe, and it was lasting. Today, we have seen the amendment that the Government have brought forward on the time limit for detention, increasing it from 24 hours to eight days—as others have said, it is eight days before someone can apply for bail to a first-tier tribunal. My worry is that, in that very vulnerable period of their life, a child will be detained and trapped in the system, and the issue then is, detained where?

I raised the use of Harmondsworth with the Minister, and he gave me an assurance that that is not Government’s intention or the ministerial intention. I am sure that it is not this Minister’s intention, but Ministers and Administrations change. Unlike with the 2014 legislative commitment that we got, I do not believe that Government statements of intention are sufficiently strong to prevent us from reverting, unfortunately, to the detention of children in unsuitable accommodation and even detention centres. The reason we supported local authorities taking these traumatised children into care was that they have the range of expertise to provide them with the support they need. I am worried that we are reverting to type; time and again, we have explained in the House that the Home Office accommodation that has been provided is inadequate, as we have seen as a result of the number of children who have gone missing, some of whom have not even been found again.

I do not want to delay the House, because others want to speak, but I feel that the Bill is a reversion to pre 2014, and that is the result of the Government’s failure to take into account the range of views expressed in this House and elsewhere. It is the most vulnerable who need our support—our succour and our kindness—the most. The children are the ones who will probably suffer the most as a result of this legislation, and that is why I urge those in the other House to hold to their task of bringing some light of humanity to the discussion of this issue. I hope they will hold to their amendments so that this appalling Bill can at least be in some way ameliorated.

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search