Tory backbenchers hit out at David Cameron for U-turn on Syrian refugees
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 29 January 2014
Some Conservative MPs have criticised the U-turn by David Cameron under which about 500 refugees from Syria will be allowed to enter Britain.
They broke a cross-party consensus on the issue even though Theresa May, the Home Secretary, sought to reassure them by announcing that the Syrians would be granted only temporary visas.
Andrew Bridgen, a Tory backbencher, said: "It is pure political posturing and tokenism. I think that people can see the political expediency of the U-turn.” He claimed the Government’s decision would make little difference to such a vast refugee crisis.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a former Defence minister, said the number of Syrian refugees should be limited to hundreds rather than thousands, arguing that Britain was a more densely populated country than France or Germany. In the Commons, Labour MPs cried “shame” when he said the UK should prioritise persecuted Syrian Christians.
The Syrians will be allowed to work during their stay in the UK. The Home Office has not yet decided how long their visas will last but they could be reviewed after three years on a case-by-case basis, taking account of individual circumstances and events in Syria.
Mrs May completed the Government’s U-turn when she announced that Britain would run its own Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme outside the United Nations’ resettlement programme, which aims to persuade western nations to admit 30,000 Syrian refugees.
The Home Secretary told the Commons that running a “parallel scheme” would give Britain the flexibility to help the vulnerable groups it wished to target – survivors of torture and violence, including sexual violence; and women and children at risk or in need of medical care. Mrs May insisted that the Government would still work “hand in hand” with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which will identify the people who will come to Britain.
The Government’s rethink headed off the prospect of a Commons defeat. Labour did not force a vote after a debate on the issue.
But Mrs May was criticised by Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs for not joining the UN programme and some Tories urged her to keep that decision under review. Bob Ainsworth, a former Labour Defence Secretary, warned: “If every single country demands the flexibility to set up a parallel and unilateral scheme then the entire effort will be undermined to some degree.”
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...