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Lords Holding Firm On Rwanda Bill Dampens No.10 Hopes Of Spring Deportations

Home Secretary James Cleverly pictured on Downing Street this week (Alamy)

3 min read

Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will not become law until next week at the earliest, after the House of Lords held out and continued to change the bill on Wednesday night.

MPs will get the chance to vote on the legislation again on Monday, after it was pushed into a rare fourth round of parliamentary ping-pong by the continued inclusion of Lords amendments.

Downing Street had hoped the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill would receive royal assent by the end of the week, with the parliamentary process having been widely expected to wrap up on Wednesday.

But peers' support of proposals to institute a monitoring committee to ensure the safety of Rwanda and to exempt people who have supported British armed forces overseas to be exempted from being sent to Rwanda, put forward by Lord Hope and Lord Browne respectively, mean that the bill must now return to the Commons for MPs to approve the changes. This means the process will continue until at least next week. 

PoliticsHome understands that it is considered unusual for crossbenchers to hold out for so long when it comes to amending government legislation, as they generally do not wish to interfere with the will of the elected house. MPs have already voted to support the bill in its current form. 

But one Lords source described the relationship between the government and peers as “poisoned” by the back and forth, and the “ridiculous” blaming of peers for delays. 

Ministers have repeatedly blamed the Lords for delaying the legislation, but earlier in the process there had been some confusion as to why the government had not brought it back for more consideration before the Easter recess. 

On Thursday Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt confirmed that the legislation would be back before MPs on Monday, and Downing Street remain hopeful of it clearing parliament in one day. 

However, more time has been allotted on Tuesday should the bill not be ready for Royal Assent by the end of Monday. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday that it is their intention for the bill to get through Monday and then they will set out the timetable for flights at a later date. They did not recommit to the Spring timetable for the first flight that has long been cited by Sunak and other ministers. 

Home Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday that “Labour Lords” had voted against the government’s plans to stop small boat crossings, but many of the amendments have been led by peers with no party affiliation. 

“Keir and co are terrified Rwanda will work and they’ll use any excuse to stop it," he wrote on X. “Over 100 votes, they’re constantly against the British people’s right to control immigration.” 

Labour has been pressing the government to support the Lords’ proposals to exempt Afghans who served alongside British armed forces from being sent to Rwanda. 

Shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard and shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock wrote to ministers earlier this week and said: “A failure to build this safeguard into the Bill would compound the injustice already inflicted by the Government’s mismanagement of the ARAP and ACRS schemes.” 

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