Suella Braverman, the former Home Secretary sacked by Rishi Sunak last month, gave her resignation speech in the House of Commons this afternoon, in which she said Sunak has one last chance to pass a Bill that will actually stop the boats. Here is her speech in full.
Madame Deputy Speaker, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to make this statement and I’d like to put on record my wishes to Mr. Speaker that he makes a speedy recovery.
Madame Deputy Speaker, serving in cabinet for just under four years has been a true honour and I’m thankful for the opportunity and grateful to the many civil servants with whom I worked.
We achieved a great deal in the last 12 months: landmark legislation in the Public Order Act and the National Security Act; 20,000 new police officers – more than England and Wales have ever seen before; one of the largest ever pay rises for the police; greater powers to dismiss rogue officers; and a review of legal protections to empower our brave firearms officers.
But Madame Deputy Speaker, I want to talk about the crisis on which I spent more time in office working than any other: mass, uncontrolled, illegal immigration. We are all familiar with the problem. Tens of thousands of mostly young men – many with values and social mores at odds with our own – pouring into our country day after day, month after month, year after year.
Many come from safe countries. Many are not refugees but are economic migrants. All have paid thousands of pounds to criminal gangs to break into Britain. All have come from a safe country: France – who, let’s face it, should be doing so much more to stop them.
This is putting unsustainable pressure on our public finances and our public services. It’s straining community cohesion, jeopardising national security and harming public safety. The British people understand all this, Madame Deputy Speaker. The question is, does the Government? And will it now finally act to stop it?
The Prime Minister rightly committed to doing whatever it takes to stop the boats. And he should be commended for dedicating more time and toil than any of his predecessors to this endeavour. And unlike the leader of the opposition, who would rather bury his head in the sand, he has actually advanced a plan.
We made some progress during my tenure as Home Secretary. The overall crossings have fallen by 30%. The number of illegal Albanian arrivals is down by 90%. And we were starting to close down asylum hotels.
But, Madame Deputy Speaker, ‘crossings are down’ is not the same as ‘stopping the boats’. As Home Secretary, I consistently advocated legislative measures that would have secured the delivery of our Rwanda partnership as soon as the Bill became law.
Last summer, following defeat in the Court of Appeal, I advised that we should scrap rather than continue passage of the Illegal Migration Bill, in favour of a more robust alternative that excluded international and human rights laws. When that was rejected, I urged that we needed to work up a credible Plan B in the event of a Supreme Court loss.
Following defeat in the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister has finally agreed to introduce emergency legislation. And I welcome his decision. But, Madame Deputy Speaker it is now three weeks on from that judgment and we are yet to see a Bill. I’m told its publication is imminent. But we are running out of time. This is an emergency and we need to see the Bill now.
Madame Deputy Speaker, my deeper concern, however, relates to the substance of what may be in that Bill. Previous attempts have failed because they failed to address the root cause of the problem: expansive human rights laws, flowing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), replicated in Labour’s Human Rights Act, are being interpreted elastically by courts domestic and foreign, to literally prevent our Rwanda plan from getting off the ground.
And this problem relates to so much more than just illegal arrivals. From my time as Home Secretary, I can say that the same human rights framework is producing insanities that the public would scarcely believe.
Foreign terrorists we can’t deport – because of their human rights. Terrorists that we have to let back in – because of their human rights. Foreign rapists and paedophiles who should have been removed but are released back into the communities only to reoffend. Yep – because of their human rights. Violent criminals pulled off deportation flights at the last minute – thanks to the help of Labour MPs – free to wander our streets and commit further horrific crimes, including murder. Protestors let off the hook for tearing down statues and gluing themselves to roads. And our brave military veterans being harassed by courts some 40 years after their service.
Madame Deputy Speaker, it is no secret that I support leaving the ECHR and replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights that protects the vulnerable and our national security, and finishes the job of Brexit by extricating us from the foreign court and restores real parliamentary sovereignty. But I accept that the Government won’t do that and that it’s a debate for another day.
Crucially, when it comes to stopping the boats now, leaving the ECHR is not the only way to cut the Gordian Knot. Emergency legislation would enable this only if it meets the following tests.
Firstly, the Bill must address the Supreme Court’s concerns about the safety of Rwanda. Secondly, the Bill must enable flights before the next election by blocking off all routes of challenge. The powers to detain and remove must be exercisable notwithstanding the Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention and all other international law.
Thirdly, the Bill must remedy deficiencies in the Illegal Migration Act to ensure that removals can take place within days of people arriving illegally, rather than allowing individual challenges which drag on for months. Fourth, the Bill must enable the administrative detention of illegal arrivals until they are removed. And, just as we rapidly built Nightingale hospitals to deal with Covid, so we must build Nightingale-style detention facilities to deliver the necessary capacity. Greece and Turkey have done so. And the only way to do this, as I advocated for in Government, is with support from the Ministry of Defence. Fifth, Parliament should be prepared to sit over Christmas to get this Bill passed.
All of this, Madame Deputy Speaker, comes down to a simple question: who governs Britain? Where does ultimate authority in the U.K. lie? Is it with the British people and their elected representatives? Or is it in the vague, shifting and unaccountable concept of ‘international law’.
On Monday, Madame Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister announced measures that start to better reflect public frustration on legal migration. He can now follow that up with a Bill that reflects public fury on illegal migration and actually stop the boats.
Madame Deputy Speaker, it is now or never. The Conservative party faces electoral oblivion in a matter of months if we introduce yet another Bill destined to fail. Do we fight for sovereignty or let our party die? Now I may not always have found the right words in the past, Madame Deputy Speaker, but I refuse to sit by and allow us to fail. The trust that millions of people placed in us cannot be discarded like an inconvenient detail.
If we summon the political courage to do what is truly necessary, difficult though it may be, to fight for the British people, we will regain their trust. And, if the Prime Minister leads that fight, he has my total support.
Stop Press: Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has resigned from the Government after its emergency Rwanda legislation stopped short of disapplying the European Convention on the Human Rights (ECHR). Read his resignation letter in full here.
Stop Press 2: The Telegraph‘s Ross Clark says “Suella Braverman is right – the Tories face oblivion if they don’t stop illegal migrants. The British public have had enough of perverse human rights judgments making it impossible for the Government to control our borders”.
Stop Press 3: The Rwandan Government has suggested it would have pulled out of its deportation deal with the U.K. if Britain had opted out of international human rights laws – the reason Sunak has told MPs that he held back from doing so.