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Shadow Home Secretary Speech - Refugee Plan


Douglas Byrne
(@douglas-byrne)
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Shadow First Secretary of State and Home Secretary Douglas Byrne spoke to a media audience in Westminster

"Ladies and gentlemen,

24 hours have passed since the Prime Minister's shock announcement that she has decided, unilaterally, to open the doors to 250,000 refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, who will be brought into Britain forthwith, with 100,000 coming this year.

Despite the passage of time, considerable Parliamentary and public concern, and a motion to censure the government having been moved in the House, the Prime Minister appears to have gone into hiding and has made no further statement about the matter. Time has still not been allocated for Parliament to debate and discuss the measure, and legislative steps to implement it have not been taken. The Prime Minister's catastrophic lack of leadership is worrying almost as much as the ignorant arrogance of her presumptive successor, the Chancellor, who stood before the House of Commons and delivered a sardonic speech dripping in sarcasm and refusing to acknowledge the government's deeply discourteous and contemptuous attitude towards elected representatives.

I must make it clear that, having served in Parliament for many years, I have never known a government to be so openly disdainful towards the House of Commons. It has been a regular pattern of the Suchet administration that sweeping policy announcements are made in the press before they are brought to the House's attention, and this latest policy - presented to the world as a fait accompli without any Parliamentary scrutiny - delivers a dagger blow to all those who value the aged system of checks and balances which ensures the continued survival and expansion of our democratic way of life.

Ministers who refused to attend debate on the Scotland Bill refused even to come before the House to offer an explanation, and the Prime Minister herself, who rumour has it is just days from resignation, has given no further statement since her alarmingly brief press conference last night.

The government's reckless disregard for due process is the reason for the instigation of the motion of censure, which I presented in my capacity as Shadow First Secretary of State and as deputising for the Leader of the Opposition. Realistically, we know that whilst some Labour and Liberal Democrat backbenchers may well vote with us, we cannot expect that this motion will pass. What it should serve as is a shot across the bow; a clear warning to the government, to the Prime Minister afraid of command, the Chancellor full of pride and vanity, the Deputy Prime Minister who sells snake oil to the sick and the Home Secretary who is notable only in absence, that the Opposition will not tolerate the indelible black mark that has been allowed to stain this nation's conscience.

The Conservatives are clear that this government of repeated crisis, determined inactivity, enduring incompetence and emphatic failure, must step aside and allow to govern Britain those who are infinitely better equipped so to do. It is my earnest expectation that Dylan Macmillan will be back in Downing Street before the year is out, and in the anticipation that Ariadne Suchet will shortly end what has been an epic Greek tragedy and resign, I urge her successor to exhibit the semblance of humility that has been so lacking in our political leaders and call an immediate general election, so that the people may make their verdict on what I think will be recalled as one of the most lacklustre government's of modern political history.

I am concerned not just by the way in which the government has chosen to announce and pursue its policies, but by the detail of what it proposes to do as well. There is no evidence whatever that the government's refugee plan is the product of consultation and cooperation with the European Union or the United Nations; there is no suggestion that this move to take in 250,000 refugees is part of a coordinated effort to tackle a growing humanitarian crisis. And even as the Prime Minister sheds crocodile tears for the men, women and children who are suffering great peril, she must surely reflect upon her own culpability in their torment, having voted against the military intervention in Syria which could have brought it to a close.

The most petrifying paragraph of the government's putrid plan is the suggestion that these refugees will be sent to some of the poorest, most deprived and most neglected communities in Britain. I see and understand what the Prime Minister is trying to do by rolling two issues in to one; she correctly identifies that some towns in this country are underpopulated in terms of a working-age labour force, and that these areas are declining as a result. But you cannot send hundreds of thousands of refugees to these areas and expect that all will be well; all too often, it is these more deprived localities which lack the fundamental requirements in infrastructure and public services, and indeed jobs, to support a sudden influx of people who are, in the majority, young, non-English speaking, and legally unemployable unless given indefinite leave to remain.

It is also not clear that the Prime Minister truly considers this an issue of refuge; she has spoken as if intending that those refugees who come to Britain will become a permanent fixture of our national fabric, at which point it is clear that they cease to be considered refugees and become economic migrants. The government must very carefully consider the impact on the labour market, particularly at the lower end of the wage continuum, of a sudden influx of 100,000 people this year and 50,000 people per annum for three years after that. We do not have the jobs to support those people - nor do we have the public services such as schools and the NHS that are necessary.

The government has sought to address that problem by pencilling in apprenticeships and skills training which will be available exclusively to refugees. There are serious questions about how such programmes would square the circle of discrimination laws, and how British taxpayers could be expected to fund personal and professional development projects which they themselves cannot access.

There is also no clarity about where refugees will come from. Will they be brought out of France and other EU countries, where they already reside in a safe nation and should rightfully claim asylum there, or will they be airlifted directly from the affected region - Syria and her ilk - in which case one expects that some form of military presence becomes inevitable.

The plan is badly thought through, has not been agreed with Parliament and does not have the consent of the people. That being the case, I urge the Prime Minister, prior to her resignation, to pause this bedevilled project and establish a cross-party committee to examine options for dealing with the issue.

No Conservative is opposed to helping people in crisis. No patriot turns a blind eye when cousins from across the world are suffering. It is not my policy to reject refugees, nor, necessarily, to suggest that the government's figures are too generous. But it is my policy to manage the refugee crisis responsibly and in line with the values of rationality and reasonableness which I hold dear.

The government must stop and think again; and if it will not yield, it must be forced so to do. Should it be necessary for the mace to swing for this ministry's head, neither I nor the Leader of the Opposition will shy away from placing the impetus behind that motion.

Thank you."


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Dan
 Dan
(@dan)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 139
 

Douglas Byrne opens fire at the Government here over the refugee plan. Some of the points hurt Ariadne Suchet as she walks out of downing street and you make it clear the Conservatives cannot support it.

One thing you didnt do though is say what the Tories would do, some words in here about what the plan is for the Conservatives would have scored higher.

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Dan

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