MPs and peers to clash over refugees, protests and voting curbs in crucial few days at parliament

MPs and peers will scrap over controversial plans to “offshore” refugees, ban “noisy” protests and slap curbs on voting, in a critical four days at parliament.

Boris Johnson faces a nail-biting deadline of Thursday to pass the hotly contested legislation, with battles also ahead over restrictions on judicial reviews and residents’ bills in danger flats, following the Grenfell disaster.

The government has been accused of cruelty to asylum seekers and assaults on democracy and the right to protest, through the bills yet to pass as the parliamentary session nears its close.

Any bills without royal assent when the curtain comes down fall automatically, which would be a major embarrassment.

Ministers want to end the session on Thursday, ahead of a new Queen’s Speech on 10 May, but are still locked in disputes with the House of Lords over:

* The Nationality and Borders Bill – where peers are demanding proper scrutiny of Rwanda-style deals to send refugees abroad, after Priti Patel refused to reveal the cost.

MPs are also being urged to accept amendments to expand family meetings for child asylum seekers elsewhere in Europe and set an annual resettlement target.

* The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – where the Lords have repeatedly rejected an “anti-democratic” move to allow the police to ban protests deemed too noisy.

The legislation will also allow police to stop and search protesters without suspicion and make a crime of “locking on” to structures, as part of a protest.

* The Election Bill – which has been condemned by the independent Electoral Commission as a government power-grab with “no precedent” in western democracies.

The Lords is still arguing against requirements to show ID when voting – expected to hit the young and poor – arguing for more documents, such as birth certificates and council tax demands, to be accepted.

* The Judicial Review and Courts Bill – which will strip immigrants and refugees of the right to challenge deportation orders in the High Court.

Peers want the government to retain the so-called Cart reviews, in immigration cases, and to give bereaved families publicly funded legal representation at inquiries, when public bodies do.

* The Building Safety Bill – designed to give residents and homeowners more rights and ensure developers, rather than “innocent leaseholders”, pay for historic building defects.

The Lords wants to go further, to reduce residents’ post-Grenfell liabilities to zero, and for the protections to be extended to blocks of flats of any size.

Traditionally, peers give way to the Commons – as the elected chamber – in such parliamentary ping-pong, particularly if the measures were manifesto pledges.

But they have dug in so far, the Borders Bill being perhaps the most bitter clash, after Lord Judge, a former lord chief justice, argued the legislation is unlawful.

Five other bills – covering health, education, animal welfare, recognition of professional qualifications and post-Brexit subsidies – are also yet to receive royal assent.

Mr Johnson said: “The 10 bills expected to pass into law this week will protect our borders, tackle the Covid backlogs, keep our streets safe and ease pressures on household budgets by equipping people with the skills to secure well-paid jobs.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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