Lord Dubs has expressed his disappointment after MPs rejected a bid to reopen a legal route for unaccompanied child migrants to find sanctuary in the UK.
However, Lord Dubs, who arrived in Britain as a refugee from Nazism, insisted: “The campaign isn’t over, our better nature will surely carry the day.”
Meanwhile, TV presenter and former football star Gary Lineker, who has regularly sparked controversy with his support for refugees, branded the decision “shameful”, adding: “I suppose if they feel it might gain them a few votes at the next election it’s worth abandoning the helpless.”
Theresa May saw off a threatened Conservative rebellion in the House of Commons, with just three Tory MPs backing the move to revive the so-called Dubs scheme.
Tabled by Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, the proposal would have required councils in England to declare whether they could house unaccompanied children.
Ministers had been widely criticised for shutting the programme, named after Lord Dubs, after the resettlement of just 350 children on the grounds that councils did not have the capacity to take the 3,000 demanded by campaigners.
But a Government spokesman insisted that the UK’s doors “remain open to all those who need our protection”.
“We are very grateful for the support local authorities provide to the asylum system,” said the spokesman.
“There are more than 4,000 unaccompanied children currently being cared for across the country and thousands more arrive in the UK each year.
“Government departments will continue to work closely with councils to source more places for the most vulnerable children.
“And we urge more local authorities to join the National Transfer Scheme to relieve pressure on areas where numbers are greatest.
“The UK’s doors will remain open to all those who need our protection. We have a proud history of providing sanctuary – and local authorities will continue to play a vital role.”
South Cambridgeshire MP Ms Allen was joined by former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan and Twickenham MP Tania Mathias in defying the Conservative whip.
Ms Allen told the Commons that since the Government halted the Dubs scheme, “local authorities across the country have stepped forward and said they can do more”.
She told MPs: “If that capacity is there, a safeguarding strategy and something that extracts that information from local authorities on a regular basis, rather than just once at the end of the financial year, is powerful information and we must know it.”
The trio of Tory supporters of the amendment were joined by 195 Labour MPs, 47 SNP, and nine Liberal Democrats, among others.
But the Government defeated the cross-party alliance by 287 votes to 267.