Peers have threatened to delay the Illegal Migration Bill until the Government publishes the “facts and figures” showing the financial impact of the controversial proposals.
Home Office minister Lord Murray of Blidworth was heckled by peers as he repeatedly said an economic impact assessment on the Bill would be “published in due course”.
But former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, an independent crossbench peer, said it was “outrageous” the House of Lords was being asked to take decisions on the proposals without knowing the predicted impact of them.
The Bill is a key part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bid to deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats.
The reforms would prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.
The Government also hopes the changes will ensure detained people are promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.
The Bill is undergoing line-by-line scrutiny in the Lords at committee stage, with the Government braced for amendments to be made by peers at report stage.
“It seems to me outrageous. How can the Government justify it?”
Conservative Lord Cormack noted the House has to make “significant” decisions at report stage on the “most sensitive legislation that has been before Parliament for a very long time”.
He said: “It is crucial we have all the facts at our disposal.”
Lord Hunt added: “I think the House is entitled to ask the minister what he means by ‘in due course’.
“Let me ask him specifically whether the impact assessment will be available before we move into report stage?
“Because my own thinking is that the House should not allow the Bill to go into report stage without the impact assessment being available.”
Shouts of “hear, hear” and “well said” could be heard after Lord Hunt made his point.
For Labour, home affairs spokesman Lord Coaker sought clarity on how many people could be removed from the UK under the proposals.
He also said: “In order to make proper decisions… it’s a convention that those facts are made available.
“At the very least they should be made available before report, they should be made available.”
He added: “We are whistling in the dark. We have no idea what it means.”
Lord Coaker later asked: “Where’s all the other facts and figures? No idea.”
An analysis produced by the Refugee Council said it would cost between £8.7 billion and £9.6 billion to detain and accommodate people impacted by the Bill in the first three years of its operation.
The Government last month published an equality impact assessment which concluded disqualification from modern slavery support under the Bill could have a disproportionate impact on female potential victims.
The Bill faces a rocky ride in the Lords, with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby previously condemning it as “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.
Peers later discussed amendments to the list of countries or territories where a person may be removed, with suggestions to explicitly state that LGBT+ people should not be taken to some of them due to fears of persecution.
A separate amendment also suggested removing Rwanda from the list given legal action to challenge the plan.