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Parliament Is Braced For Illegal Migration Bill 'Ping Pong' Between MPs and Lords

Rishi Sunak has pledged to stop small boat crossings (Alamy)

3 min read

Parliament is bracing for further back and forths on the government's controversial Illegal Migration Bill, following a series of defeats in the House of Lords.

Lords have overall agreed 20 changes to the legislation, including one put forth by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and another designed to bind the government to keep to their obligations under international law. 

Those amendments will be considered by the House of Commons on Tuesday, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt confirmed on Thursday. 

MPs are likely to disagree with Lords’ changes, before sending the legislation back to the upper house again, in a series of repeated bouncing between the Houses known as ping-pong. 

Downing Street has signalled that they could strip out a number of the changes, and said today that ministers “continue to believe that this Bill is the right and appropriate way to stop the boats”. 

Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said that the government is not "deterred" by the challenges to the bill. "We continue to believe that this bill is the right and appropriate way to stop the boats," they said.

A previous threat of Conservative rebellion on the bill was quashed in April, when ministers eased their stance on child refugees. 

Time for the bill has also been allocated in the Commons  the following week - the final week of MPs’  sitting before summer recess - between 17 July and 19 July. 

The Lords will then further consider any changes made by the Commons. They have made clear their opposition to a number of elements of the bill. Sticking points so far have emerged around protections for children, human trafficking, and ensuring the UK government complies with international law. 

The Lords amended the bill over three days at report stage, the final of which concluded late on Wednesday evening, with a vote on an amendment laid by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which calls on the government to draw up a 10 year plan to work internationally to tackle the refugee crisis. 

Justin Welby told peers last night that his amendment was designed to be “helpful” and “improve” the bill by addressing “the concerns about a lack of a global and long-term perspective” on the issues. 

“I hope that the Government and all noble Lords can see that this amendment is a positive and constructive suggestion, whatever I or others may feel about the Bill in general. I urge the Government to develop a strategy that is ambitious, collaborative, worthy of our history and up to the scale of the enormous challenges we face,” he said. 

Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have repeatedly set out their desire to reduce illegal migration and stop small boat crossings as a government priority, of which the Illegal Migration Bill is a key part. 

Separately, the government has said it will seek to appeal a ruling that the Rwanda deportation scheme is unlawful, and hopes to take it to the Supreme Court. 

Sunak has said he will do “whatever is necessary” to get removal flights to Rwanda off the ground, after the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda is not a safe place for asylum seekers to be housed while their claims are processed.

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