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Rwanda Bill Set For Final Wrangling After Latest Government Defeats

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom meets Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda at 10 Downing Street (Alamy)

3 min read

The government's Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill will return to parliament next week, where MPs and peers will undertake what looks likely to be the final round of wrangling over Rishi Sunak's contentious plans to deport asylum seekers to the east African country.

The legislation, designed to declare Rwanda a safe country in order to enact the government's delayed offshoring policy, is due back in the Commons when MPs return from Easter recess on Monday. It was first published in December after the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeal was entitled to reach the conclusion that the scheme could breach international laws stating that asylum-seekers cannot be sent back to their country of origin if their life is at risk. 

MPs are expected to strip out amendments added during the Bill's last round in the Lords before it will be returned to the upper house to receive its final sign-off. Unless peers choose to insert a new set of clauses, which would be put back before MPs in a process known as 'ping-pong' where a bill bounces between the two houses before making its way into law. 

When the House of Lords last voted on the bill at the end of March crossbench peers were key to the set of Government defeats that have diverted the legislation back to the Commons. Amendments supported by peers at this stage included clauses on modern slavery, compliance with domestic and international law, and protections for children and other vulnerable people. 

The number of non-affiliated peers who backed the amendments outnumbered the ones who backed the government on all of the votes, and the size of crossbench support was bigger than the voting majority. One Lords source thought that whether or not crossbenchers back amendments in subsequent stages is likely to determine how long the legislation continues to bounce between the two houses. 

Peers are expected to send back a handful of amendments for the Commons to consider again later this week, but it is likely there will be significantly fewer than the seven that they approved before the recess. They may however be considering how long the Lords is willing to sustain ping-pong given the bill has already been approved by the House of Commons. 

One peer told PoliticsHome that they did not think Lords would be “particularly troublesome” when the legislation returns, having concluded that the government will not accept anything they put forward.

“I don’t believe now there is an appetite in the Lords to maintain opposition anymore," they said.

“We’ve made very, very clear we don’t like it. I think we’ve said all we want to say, and I think the answer is we think that it is pretty bad. But the government made their bed, they can sleep on it now.” 

Several Commons and Lords figures are surprised that the latest round of ping-pong was not resolved before the Easter recess, especially considering the government's desire to get it on the statute books quickly. 

Downing Street said earlier this week that the UK and Rwanda are still committed to deportation flights taking off “in the spring”. Rwandan President Paul Kagame met Sunak in Downing Street, where they discussed the partnership. 

"The Prime Minister updated President Kagame on the next stages of the legislation in Parliament," a Downing Street spokesperson said.“Both leaders looked forward to flights departing to Rwanda in the spring.”

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