The Government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill passed in the Commons on Monday with a majority of 62 votes and not a single rebellion from the Conservative benches.
Several MPs, however, abstained on the vote after publicly expressing their concerns about clauses in the bill. Others supported the legislation but said they would only do so on the condition it was amended at a later stage.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May was among those who abstained after giving a powerful speech in the Commons condemning the law for its impact on people who were victims of modern slavery.
Here i considers all the Conservative MPs who have publicly expressed concerns about the bill so far.
Mrs May told MPs that “whenever you close a route, the migrants and the people smugglers find another way” and warned that “anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong”.
She raised several concerns about the proposed legislation, including that it could lead to a “blanket dismissal of anyone who is facing persecution and finds their way to the UK”.
“The UK has always welcomed those who are fleeing persecution, regardless of whether they come through a safe and legal route,” she said.
“By definition, someone fleeing for their life will, more often than not, be unable to access a legal route.
“I do not think that it is enough to say that we will meet our requirements by sending people to claim asylum in Rwanda.”
The former PM went on to express concerns about the bill’s impact on victims of modern slavery and said she would be seeking to discuss the matter with No 10 so “we can find some resolution”.
“As it stands, we are shutting the door on victims who are being trafficked into slavery here in the UK. If they had come here illegally, they would not be supported to escape their slavery,” Mrs May said.
She also argued that the legislation would be unlikely to work, claiming it would require “a number of things to fall into place” including no legal challenges, the success of the Rwanda removal scheme and the creation of removal agreements with other countries.
Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the Government “should make no apology for wanting to make sure that [illegal migration] is addressed fair and square”.
He said he would support the bill but called for it to be amended to deal with the issue of the detention of children after it emerged that children who arrive in the UK on small boats will be detained in immigration centres under the plan.
“My strong suggestion to them, when we come to amend the bill, is to ditch that clause and look carefully at the way we deal with unaccompanied children, families and women. There is nothing worse than ineffective authoritarianism and that is the danger of such provisions,” he told MPs.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, he said that “a lot of us who decided to allow the principle of the bill to go forward yesterday were doing so upon the basis that this bill will need further work”.
“The issue relating to particularly women and children needs to be directly addressed,” he continued.
“I do not support the detention of unaccompanied children or indeed the splitting up of families; that was a government policy that has been followed since 2010, and I think that those parts of the bill should be removed.
“Voting to allow the principle of a bill to go forwards is different from the detail of the bill and I would expect it to be scrutinised carefully and for the government to listen to the concerns.”
North Dorset MP Simon Hoare, a senior backbencher who is chair of the Northern Ireland select committee, said in the debate that many Conservative MPs were only supporting the bill “with the clear understanding that we wish to see amendments to it as it progresses through Parliament, particularly in relation to women who are trafficked and to children”.
“Our votes are being given in good faith tonight, in the expectation that the bill can be amended,” he added.
He made the intervention in response to Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper’s speech, and nodded when she replied: “I do recognise that there are members on the benches opposite who are deeply troubled by many of the measures in this bill.”
Mr Hoare is reportedly considering tabling an amendment to the legislation which would ensure safe and legal routes would be created “in tandem” with the other measures in the Illegal Immigration Bill.
He told the Evening Standard that “you can be tough and humane at the same time” and creating safe and legal routes would be “another hammer” to break up the human trafficking gangs.
Mr Hoare said that adding such an amendment would stop the Government from being “characterised as narrow, mealy-mouthed among a broad section of the electorate who would describe itself as small c conservative and socially liberal humanitarians”.
Former minister Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon, said in the Commons that many MPs in his party were only supporting the bill “on the basis that when it gets to Committee and Report stage, the Government will confirm in more detail the legal basis of the statement that it complies with our international obligations”.
He also asked the government for clarity over whether clauses in the bill could “prevent illegal sex trafficked young women from seeking provision and protection”.
Ahead of the debate, former education minister and Conservative MP for Kingswood Chris Skidmore announced he would not be supporting the bill in the Commons but he ultimately abstained on the vote.
“I am not prepared to break international law or the human rights conventions that the UK has had a proud history of playing a leading role in establishing,” he wrote on Twitter.
Senior Conservative backbencher Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, also stated ahead of the vote that she would not be supporting it. She abstained on Monday.
She told Times Radio she was “horrified” by the bill and failed to understand “what this legislation is going to do to act as a deterrent”.
“I am deeply troubled at the prospect of a policy which seeks to criminalise children, pregnant women, families and remove them to Rwanda,” she said.
“I didn’t vote for the last nationality and borders bill, this hasn’t achieved its aim in reducing crossings. In fact, we’ve seen them increase, and I fail to see what this legislation is going to do to act as a deterrent”.
Writing for The House magazine, David Simmonds, Conservative MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the legislation.
“Human rights are personal and individual, with every person entitled under our laws to due process,” he wrote.
“Given that nobody can apply for UK asylum unless they are physically here, we must expect that those with a genuine claim but no access to a safe or legal route to continue to arrive by irregular, though not illegal, means.
“In consequence, it is hard to see a British court holding their means of arrival against them, given that under our laws they had no alternative.”
He also said he was concerned over the detention of migrants without trial, claiming “[Sunak’s] policy will be challenged in the courts, and it will not be straightforward to justify”.
Both in his article and in the Commons debate on Monday, he argued for the creation of an asylum visa which would “at a stroke annihilate the business model of the smugglers”.