Government defeated a fourth of time in the House of Lords over Brexit bill

The House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

The House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ministers have been defeated a fourth time in the Lords over Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

Peers inflicted three defeats on the government on Monday night when debating the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

And the mauling continued on Tuesday after a vote on Lord Dubs' bid to restore the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit.

The Labour peer, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport, urged ministers not to use the small number of children involved as "bargaining chips" in negotiations.

He said the government was seeking to delete earlier protections for child refugees in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 but it was a simple matter of humanity to retain them.

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Urging the government not to "close the door" on the children affected, Lord Dubs said some lived in "shocking" conditions in French camps at risk of sexual exploitation.

By providing them with a safe, legal route to the UK, peers would be "thwarting the traffickers" and avoiding the need for youngsters to take more dangerous options to get to their families.

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The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, said the law as it stood was "hard fought for, not easily won" and warned ministers against conveying a negative message.

The bishop said the issue acted as a "moral bellwether for the future of our country", adding: "We want to be known as a country that is welcoming and passionate and committed to playing our full part in responding to the deep issues that arise from the reality of refugees around the world."

Liberal Democrat Baroness Hamwee said: "There is a strong feeling that parliament should not reduce our commitment to these children or to safe and legal routes."

The vote was won by the opposition by 300 votes to 220 - a majority of 80.

The Bill is already set to return to the Commons on Wednesday when the prime minister is expected to use his big majority in the elected House to overturn the Lords defeats in the run-up to Brexit day on January 31.

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