Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said he still believed the proposals were
necessary but he would not attempt to push them through the Commons.
There are currently no passport controls for Irish and UK citizens travelling
in the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the two islands but Mr Woolas said
the requirement should be in place to tighten security.
During the passage of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill through
the Lords, the Government suffered a defeat when peers voted to remove the
clause introducing the right to impose such controls.
At the Bill’s report stage on last night, Mr Woolas told MPs he had decided to
accept amendments from the Tories and Liberal Democrats to remove the clause.
The Government had “listened and compromised” on the Bill overall, he said.
“However, there can be no compromise on the option of CTA – we either make
this necessary change now or we do not. I’ve therefore decided to accept the
Opposition amendments this evening on clause 50.
“We are committed to the policy and will examine the options forward but it’s
clear to me from the discussions that we’ve had that this clause is not
acceptable across the floor of this House and is not acceptable in the other
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said he was “delighted” that the
Tories’ arguments had won the day. He said: “Conservatives have argued
consistently that the Common Travel Area is useful for the United Kingdom,
Ireland and the Channel Islands and that the Government was wrong in seeking
to abolish it.”
Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Rowen told Mr Woolas he was “grateful” for the
Government climbdown. He said the CTA “recognises the very strong bond and
link that exists between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
Democratic Unionist Sammy Wilson, MP for Antrim East, told Mr Woolas the plans
would isolate Northern Ireland citizens from the UK mainland. He said: “What
you have described as limited and proportionate will actually treat all
citizens of Northern Ireland, who are citizens of the UK, and travelling
within the UK as if they were non-UK citizens.”
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