An amendment to bring 3,000 child refugees to the UK has been voted down, after being put forward by a Kindertransport survivor.
The government killed off the proposal which was tabled by Jewish peer Lord Alf Dubs who arrived in Britain from Prague in 1938.
Suggestions that Tory rebels could force a Government defeat alongside Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, were allayed as MPs voted 294 to 276, majority 18, to reject Lord Dubs‘s amendment to the Immigration Bill.
A handful of Tory MPs raised concerns in the debate over the Government’s position and Heidi Allen, one of the leading critics, said after the vote that she had abstained, describing it on Twitter as “the hardest decision”.
The amendment has now been effectively killed off as it was certified as “engaging financial privilege”, meaning the Lords have no choice but to back down after it was rejected by the Commons.
Lord Dubs will make another attempt to force the Government’s hand. When the Bill returns to the Lords on Tuesday, he has proposed a revised amendment that removes the reference to 3,000 refugees.
Instead Dubs will ask the Government to resettle a “specified number” of lone child refugees to be determined in consultation with local authorities.
Speaking outside the chamber, Labour refugee taskforce chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Government has rejected the Dubs amendment – albeit with a reduced majority.
“Thousands of children are sleeping rough in Europe tonight, vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and Britain should not be turning its back,” she said.
Lord Dubs was close friends with the ‘British Schindler’ Nicholas Winton, who saved him alongside 668 other Czech children from the Nazis.
Earlier on Monday before the vote in the House of Commons, one of Britain’s most prominent and also a refugee from Nazi Germany, Rabbis, Harry Jacobi, also backed the amendment whilst meeting Lord Dubs and Yvette Cooper.
The 90-year-old, who escaped to the UK, said after the unsuccessful vote: “I am so very saddened and upset by the votes in the House of Commons”, before drawing comparisons to his escape from the Nazis. He added: “This must have been what Parliament was like in 1938 after the Evian Conference, when refugees were refused admission.”
Jacobi said many MPs had “hardened hearts just like the biblical story of Pharaoh”.
“To close their eyes and hearts to unaccompanied children… These are not the actions of a world-leading moral civilisation.”
Harry added: “I hope the House of Lords will present new amendments on these matters and that consciences will win the day tomorrow.”
The Bill will return to the Lords for consideration by peers on Tuesday and will enter a fresh round of parliamentary ping pong if further amendments are made.