Labour angry as Suffolk Tory MPs back change to child refugee pledge
PUBLISHED: 16:30 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:15 09 January 2020
Leading Suffolk Labour councillor Jack Abbott has rounded on the county's Conservative MPs after they backed a change to the rules about admitting child refugees after the UK has left the EU.
During the run up to the European vote in the autumn, the government accepted an amendment from Labour Peer Lord Dubs (who was a child refugee from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia who arrived on the Kinder Transport in 1939) that unaccompanied child refugees should be re-united with their parents after Brexit day.
However the Bill was re-drafted after the election removing the protection - and a bid to re-instate it on Wednesday was rejected by the House of Commons with all Tory MPs backing the government.
Mr Abbott, who is Labour spokesman for children and education at Endeavour House, visited the notorious "Jungle" refugee camp at Calais in 2015 and feared the MPs' decision could prove catastrophic.
He said: "We are talking about some of the most vulnerable children in the world. They have travelled thousands of miles. Are we really saying they should not have the right to be reunited with their families in this country?
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"I think it is absolutely disgraceful that the government has done this and that their MPs have backed the move like this."
However Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who joined his colleagues in backing the government, said the move did not indicate a change in policy.
"This does not make a difference to our refugee policy. We have accepted more than 20,000 child refugees and we will continue to offer a safe refuge.
"The government will be coming up with a new Bill on this subject in the near future, but it was not right to include it with the EU Withdrawal Bill.
"The UK has a long, honourable tradition of accepting refugees from around the world and that is not going to change."
Ahead of the debate, Labour leadership hopeful Sir Keir Starmer and Lord Dubs had written to all Tory MPs calling on them to vote against the Prime Minister's "disgraceful" change.
But an opposition amendment to the Bill reinstating the pledge to unaccompanied child refugees was defeated by 96 votes after it was debated in the House of Commons.