‘Behind the scenes’ hope that Lords will insist on child refugee rights in Brexit bill

Labour peer Lord Dubs campaigning for child refugees. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

Labour peer Lord Dubs campaigning for child refugees. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The Labour peer who introduced a key amendment guaranteeing rights for unaccompanied child refugees says he is 'hopeful' the House of Lords will insist that it is put back in the Brexit bill.

Lord Alf Dubs said that Conservative peers have urged him to fight to keep the amendment in Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), and that they have been talking to government "behind the scenes".

"There's nothing to gain from appearing to be against humanitarian principles," said Lord Dubs as he discussed the forthcoming Lords debate.

The 'Dubs amendment' to Boris Johnson's WAB was voted down by 328 Conservative MPs in the House of Commons last week.

MORE: Here's who voted against protecting key child refugee rights after BrexitThe legislation, which would secure the right of unaccompanied child refugees to rejoin their families in the UK, was initially included in both Theresa May's and Boris Johnson's WABs, but was removed after the Conservatives won a massive general election majority in December.

The WAB now passes to the House of Lords for scrutiny this afternoon, where Lords are expected to debate restoring the Dubs amendment to the bill.

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Speaking to BBC Radio Four's Westminster Hour, Lord Dubs said he was "hopeful" the bill could be passed back to the House of Commons so that MPs can reconsider restoring his amendment.

The Prague-born peer, who was a child refugee saved from the Nazis in the Kindertransport, said that the government is "worried" it will lose this vote.

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The government has insisted that its policy on child refugees has not changed and that the commitment to helping them would be better addressed in immigration legislation later this year.

But Lord Dubs said: "They're worried they're going to lose the vote of course."

He added that the promise of future legislation is "not much of a commitment really".

"First of all, what happens in the meantime?" he continued. "And secondly, it's a little technicality to say [it's] better suited to one bill or another - we've had it in the [WAB] and we now have to make sure it stays there."

He said he never takes "anything for granted", but that there is "quite a lot of support across the parties" for the vote in the Lords.

"I've had Conservative members of the Lords who've urged me to go on with it, and who've said that behind the scenes they're talking to the government," he said. "So I think there's a chance we can win this in the Lords. I never take anything for granted."

Even if the Lords succeed in reinstating the amendment, the "long haul" will be about when the WAB returns to the Commons, where the government's majority enables it to vote it down again.

"I'm hoping that in the process the government will think again," said Lord Dubs.

"There's nothing in it at all for them. There's nothing to gain from appearing to be against humanitarian principles. After all the most basic thing in life is that children should join their relatives, their families."

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