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By Lord Moylan
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Persistent Rwanda Deadlock Could Kill Rishi Sunak's Deportation Plans

View of the Palace of Westminster (Alamy)

4 min read

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill will be back in front of MPs on Monday, as parliamentary ping-pong has pushed the process into another week, and while the Prime Minister is insistent it will clear its final hurdles, a rarely used convention could put its future at risk.

Government had hope that the legislation would be wrapped up to receive royal assent earlier this week, however the House of Lords backed two amendments again on Wednesday, meaning there will be at least one other round of votes in the Commons next week. 

Peers have been changing their amendments slightly every time the bill has come back to the Upper House, which means despite several rounds of back and forth, a process known as 'double insistence' that could lead to the bill being killed entirely has been avoided. However, one peer has said that a “credible threat” of using the mechanism could “strengthen” peers’ position in the negotiations.

According to the Parliament website, double insistence is “when the Commons and the Lords cannot reach agreement on part of a Bill. “If neither House will back down and no compromise can be found, it is likely that the entire Bill will be lost,” it explains.  

Double insistence is triggered if an amendment with exactly the same wording is sent from one House to the other twice. 

Crossbencher and former Independent Reviewer of Terror Legislation Lord David Anderson of Ipswich told PoliticsHome that constitutional arrangements could “grow rusty” if they are not used. 

“If we insist on an amendment that the Commons has already rejected, the government either has to accept that amendment or lose its Bill for a year or more until the Parliament Act can be used to bring it back," he explained. 

“A credible threat of double insistence on the Rwanda Bill could strengthen our negotiating hand and help bring concessions on the limited but deeply-felt points that still divide us. 

“We rightly give way to the Commons on almost everything, in the end – but double insistence is part of our established constitutional arrangements and if we allow it to grow rusty with disuse, it will eventually seize up.”

Ultimately, for double insistence would need the backing of other parliamentary parties within the Lords. This is because the amendment – worded exactly the same as the last time around – would need to be passed. 

Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society, told PoliticsHome that she would be “very surprised if Labour were to push it to the point of double insistence” given the party are likely “looking ahead to what will happen when they get into government and are wary of setting a precedent”.  

She described double insistence as only happening “rarely” because the “House of Lords knows its got the power to destroy a bill, but also knows there will be huge political ramifications if it uses that power”. 

Fox, a parliamentary expert, said that the principle exists “to try and force compromise” between the two Houses. 

“The whole point about parliamentary ping pong is it’s a negotiation to reach agreement on the text,” she explained. 

“It’s a dialogue between the two Houses; each side is supposed to listen to and engage with the other and make concessions to revise the wording in a way both sides can agree on.” 

However, she aid that the “problem” with the Rwanda bill is that the government’s position is to say no.

Fox added: “It hasn’t really engaged in a dialogue, it doesn’t seem to countenance the idea that the House of Lords has made any sensible suggestions that are worth listening to. If your bottom line is saying no to everything and you’re not going to accept any amendments coming from the non-government side, then that’s where you can end in a stalemate..” 

Rishi Sunak said on Friday that his patience has “run thin” with the process, as he vowed to “get this done” on Monday. 

He blamed peers for blocking the bill, something that members of the House of Lords have strongly challenged. 

Sunak told reporters: “The very simple thing here is that repeatedly, everyone has tried to block us from getting this Bill through.

“Yet again you saw it this week. You saw Labour peers blocking us again, and that’s enormously frustrating. Everyone’s patience with this has run thin, mine certainly has.

“So our intention now is to get this done on Monday. No more prevarication, no more delay. We will sit there and vote until it’s done.”

The bill has allotted time in the House of Commons on Monday, and then again on Tuesday should it be needed. 

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