Lib Dems on child detention: read our lips, it will be ended

by Stephen Tall on September 9, 2010

The Guardian today carries a story, Government climbdown on detention of children in immigration centres, which — if it were accurate — would have Lib Dems hopping mad. Thankfully, it’s not accurate.

It was six weeks ago, at his first acting stint at Prime Minister’s Questions, that Nick Clegg formally announced that (as per the Lib Dem manifesto and Coalition agreement) the practise of child detention would end:

It was simply a moral outrage that last year the Labour government imprisoned, behind bars, 1,000 children who were innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever. This coalition government will once again restore a sense of decency and liberty to the way in which we conduct ourselves. That is why I can confirm that the government will make an announcement shortly about how we will deliver on our pledge to end child detention and to close the Yarl’s Wood detention centre for good.”

Ironically the Guardian more or less ignored the story at the time, preferring instead to play up the media’s silly gaffes obsession.

However, today they are suggesting there has been a government climbdown and that the Lib Dem pledge has been watered down or forgotten about. Only in the middle of the story does it become clear there has been no policy shift:

In a brief statement released by the Home Office he said: “Significant progress has been made in working towards the commitment to end child detention for immigration purposes and we are currently piloting some proposed changes to our approach developed with partners. We have already announced that the family unit at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre will close.

The coalition agreement released in May said: “We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes,” [Immigration Minister Damien] Green noted, adding: “That remains.”

When I checked this morning with the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, they too confirmed the pledge to end child detention remains absolute.

Lib Dem blogger Carion Lindsay has also written about the story here: Child Detention is a red line issue – end of story.