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Lords Vow To Fight Attempts For Rwanda Plans To Bypass Human Rights Laws


3 min read

Lords could “fight very hard” any attempt by the government to bypass human rights laws with their new Rwanda legislation, a peer has warned.

Labour’s Lord Alf Dubs told PoliticsHome that any attempt to breach international legislation would be seen as “pretty bad” by members of the upper house.

A Conservative peer believed that opposition and crossbench resistance could be big enough to defeat the government on matters around the breaking of international law.

MPs and peers are still waiting to see the emergency legislation Rishi Sunak promised last month, after the Supreme Court found that the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda are unlawful. 

The Prime Minister said that he would being forward the legislation, to “end the merry go round” of legal challenges, as well as a new treaty with the African country, which he hoped together would assuage the court’s concerns about safety. 

Both the revised deal and the legislation could be confirmed this week, PoliticsHome understands.

Dubs told PoliticsHome that “if [the government] try and bypass the European Convention on Human Rights or the Human Rights Act [...] I think the Lords will fight very hard. 

“We’ve got some crossbenchers who are former judges and so on, and they will see any breach of our international obligations as being pretty bad.” 

Although the legislation has not been seen yet, a Conservative source in the Lords predicted that peers would not agree to any changes to domestic law that would mean international obligations could be put aside. 

They also said that while they have not seen the plans, they “dispute the word emergency attached to it in any event”. 

“Does that mean emergency because we want to get it through quickly? Yes. Does it mean emergency because the country is in peril if it isn't put through? No,” they said.

The Illegal Migration Bill - which contained the original Rwanda plans -  faced challenges in the Lords earlier this year before it received Royal Assent. 

It went through a parliamentary process known as ‘ping-pong’, when a bill bounces between the two chambers, when the Lords made amendments to the legislation which were subsequently removed by MPs. 

Throughout the bill's passage through parliament, ministers faced a number of rebellions from peers including on modern slavery, and rules relating to unaccompanied children.

PoliticsHome has previously reported that the House of Lords would “probably” be the point at which the government runs into trouble on its journey to pass the legislation. 

Dr Alice Lilly, senior researcher at the Institute for Government, told PoliticsHome that there has to be a “certain amount of political willingness” for legislation to get through quickly, and the fact that the plans are “politically so contentious” could slow things down. 

She explained to PoliticsHome that emergency legislation is much the same as normal legislation, apart from that it moves through its stages a lot more quickly. 

“What that means is there does need to be a certain amount of political willingness for that to happen.” Lilly said.  


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