Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Lord Lilley:

    The noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, makes an important point that provokes in me a question. I understand why the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford and others—all of us, I hope—have the interests of children at heart. I answer her question, “Would we send our child to Rwanda?” by asking her, “Would she send a child in a boat from France, a safe country, to the United Kingdom?” I hope she will answer that before the end of this section. I do not think she would.

    In this Bill, we are trying to deter them from coming. I understand the collective view of the Bench of Bishops is that we should not deter but prevent them; we should make prevention—the actions taken by the French police force, the interruption of the people smugglers and so on—effective. If that is the case, will she confirm that it is the policy of the bishops to stop any children getting to this country? If prevention is made effective, they will not be able to—and nor will gay people or pregnant women or the other groups we are concerned about. They will all be prevented. Is that the view she is espousing?

    The Bishop of Chelmsford:

    My Lords, I will rise just to answer the question that was put to me. First, I do not speak on behalf of the Church of England; I will be quite clear on that. We are not whipped on these Benches; we speak individually. There happens to be a great deal of agreement among us on these Benches on these issues, but we do not speak with one voice. The question I posed about whether any one of us would want this situation for our children was actually around age assessment. If we found our child or grandchild, or anyone we knew, in this situation, would we want them to be assessed in this way?

    As to the question of whether I would ever put a child on a boat, I think that is the wrong question. The point is that, behind every one of these figures, there are individual stories of enormous amounts of trauma that most of us cannot even begin to contemplate. I do not want to make a judgment about what goes on before somebody gets on a boat. I do not know whether it is necessarily parents putting children on the boats; we do not even know what has become of the parents of the children who end up here. I would not want to make a judgment on that.