Welby attacks migrant bill again and vows bishops ‘will not abandon’ opposition

Justin Welby shares thoughts on Illegal Migration Bill

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a fresh intervention on the Government’s plans to stop small boats.

Justin Welby warned that bishops “will not abandon” their opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill.

The church leader has tabled two amendments to the bill as it reaches committee stage in the upper chamber, where it has faced a barrage of criticism.

A showdown with the Government is expected in July when peers vote on the amendments at report stage.

Writing in The Times, Mr Welby said: “Those who sit on the bishops’ bench will not abandon our duty to point out when governments propose legislation that is impractical or immoral. We will not abandon the most vulnerable people that Jesus Christ specifically calls us to love.”

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The top cleric, who is one of 25 bishops in the Lords, admitted that “we must stop the boats” and “we cannot take everyone”.

But he added: “This bill will do little to resolve the existing problems, and will exacerbate others, all while causing serious suffering to the most vulnerable.”

Mr Welby insisted his amendments are “helpful, not destructive” which would require the Government to “produce long-term strategies to tackle human trafficking and the refugee crisis”.

His latest comments come after he railed against the legislation in a speech in the Lords during the second reading earlier this month, branding it “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick insisted Mr Welby was “wrong” for attacking the Government’s attempts to tackle illegal migration.

The bill, which cleared the Commons last month, aims to ensure those who arrive in the UK without permission will be detained and promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.

The clampdown is part of Rishi Sunak’s “stop the boats” pledge which he has staked his premiership on.

A record 45,728 people crossed the English Channel to the UK on small boats in 2022, while more than 7,000 have been detected so far this year.

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