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Weary Peers Want Rwanda Bill "Out The Way" So Government Can Handle Challenges

Home Secretary James Cleverly is keen to pass the Rwanda Bill (Alamy)

4 min read

Peers in the House of Lords are keen to get the Rwanda Bill "out the way", as despite the fact there are still some concerns around the controversial legislation, many believe the real challenges in enacting it will “start, not finish” when it clears its parliamentary hurdles.

On Monday evening, MPs stripped out 10 amendments that the House of Lords had made to the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill, the legislation designed to realise the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to the African country.

With the Bill returning to the House of Lords on Wednesday, peers are now redrafting their proposals. Peers expect that between five and seven amendments could be put to them to vote on, before the Bill will be sent back to the Commons for MPs to consider any changes agreed by the Lords. 

There has been some concern among those anxious to see the Bill on the statute books that a prolonged "ping-pong" process between the Commons and Lords could prevent legislation from passing before Easter recess, which begins next week. But one peer told PoliticsHome that many in the upper house now simply want to “get it out of the way”, and leave the government to face the consequences of any perceived weakness in the legislation. 

“Let them get on with it because as far as I'm concerned, once they get it away from us their troubles start, not finish," they said. 

“If they're so desperate to get it, 'let them have it' is my view, and let them see what happens.” 

The Safety of Rwanda Bill declares Rwanda a safe country, as the government’s previous attempts to send asylum seekers to the country have been caught up by challenges in both domestic and international courts. 

In November, the Supreme Court dismissed a government appeal and found that the scheme was unlawful on the grounds that it could potentially breach the rule that asylum-seekers cannot be sent back to their country of origin if their life is at risk.  

It is thought that the number of Tory rebels voting against the government could slip away when the legislation comes back on Wednesday, amid a belief that the government has made clear it is not willing to budge on the Lords’ asks. 

However, Lords sources have indicated that Labour and crossbench peers are likely to have enough support to get through a number of amendments to send back to the Commons again. 

Labour peer and opponent of the bill Baroness Shami Charkrabarti has said that she hoped colleagues would “stand firm” in the coming days over the legislation. 

She confirmed that she would be putting forward a new version of her amendment, designed to give domestic courts the power to grant interim orders to delay a person being removed to Rwanda. 

 “I hope and believe that other colleagues from across the House will do the same," she told the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on Tuesday morning.

“We’ll reformulate amendments making any appropriate possible concessions they can, even though the government is not in a negotiating mood.” 

It is understood that the amendments laid for Lords to consider this week will be based around a set of “core” issues they have been trying to press the government on since the legislation was introduced, such as ensuring the safety of Rwanda through the measures that were announced in the treaty that accompanied the Bill. 

After the bill has been in the Lords again tomorrow, it will return again to the Commons, where any of the upper chamber’s changes are likely to be stripped out again and then sent back to peers. 

Downing Street remains confident that regardless of increasingly tight timings, they can still hope to send flights with an initial cohort of asylum seekers to Rwanda soon.

“We expect the first flights to take off in the Spring, and that timeline remains unchanged whether the bill is passed before or after Easter,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said on Tuesday morning. 

They added that Rishi Sunak is "clear" that "sitting back and doing nothing is not an option”. 

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Read the most recent article written by Caitlin Doherty - Persistent Rwanda Deadlock Could Kill Rishi Sunak's Deportation Plans

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