Call to welcome refugees in stormy council debate

Refugees welcome: Counter protest in Preston on Saturday
Refugees welcome: Counter protest in Preston on Saturday
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There were heated scenes in Preston Town Hall as politicians debated the refugee crisis.

Labour councillor Roy Leeming submitted a notice to call on the government to accept Britain’s “fair share” of asylum seekers fleeing war-torn countries.

Despite claims that the call was designed to “bring all parties together”, the council chamber remained divided with Conservative councillors abstaining from the vote.

Coun Leeming said: “We have an opportunity to contribute, to do something meaningful.”

But Conservative group leader Coun Neil Cartwright said: “The notice of motion doesn’t mean a great deal. It’s not going to solve the crisis.

“I can’t support the motion because it really doesn’t deal with the real issue.”

Conservative councillor Stephen Thompson added: “The crisis will eventually have to be solved by boots on the ground in Syria.”

But, in his response, Coun Leeming said: “I’ve always said this resolution wasn’t political, it was a response to a humanitarian crisis. I never imagined there would be opposition.”

Liberal Democrat councillor John Potter said Britain had not been “pulling its weight” in response to the crisis and added: “This motion I wholeheartedly support. We need to say in one voice that David Cameron and the Conservative government do not speak for me, my family, my party or the people of Preston.”

And council leader Coun Peter Rankin said: “To turn our backs on refugees is not the way forward, we need to welcome them.”

He described the calls in the notice of motion, which was agreed by a majority of councillors, as “a small drop in the ocean”.