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MPs And Peers Brace To Sit Until Early Hours With Rwanda Bill

Rishi Sunak pledged Monday that the country’s first deportation flights to Rwanda could leave in 10-12 weeks (Alamy)

4 min read

MPs and peers are bracing to potentially sit until the early hours, after the Prime Minister vowed that the Rwanda plans would be finalised “no ifs, no buts”.

Peers have sent the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration Bill) back to the Commons tonight with one addtional amendment asking for an independent committee to monitor the safety of Rwanda for asylum seekers. 

Lords voted by 240 votes to 211 to back the amendment, sending it back to the Commons again this evening. 

However, they have dropped their demands on people who have supported the British Armed forces overseas from being exempted from deportation, after they got an apparent concession from ministers. 

The bill is bouncing between the Commons and Lords in the latest round of parliamentary ping-pong. Earlier tonight, MPs already stripped out the latest round of changes made by peers last week, sending it back to the Lords. 

Labour peer Lord Desmond Browne has previously offered up amendments that would exempt Afghans who have supported British armed forces from being sent to Rwanda. 

It had been thought that there could be an appetite for peers to hold out and further try to force this principle into the legislation tonight, however, Lord Browne did not press it to a further vote after minister Lord Sharpe said that the government would reassess relocation applications. 

Browne's plans received strong cross-party support in the House of Lords, and sources believed a version of them could be taken to a vote again at least once on Monday evening. 

MPs will now have to decide once more whether to accept the change made by the Lords or strip it back out. 

Labour peer and former shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti told PoliticsHome earlier today that the Prime Minister was “out of touch” by standing firm on the government’s refusal to concede any ground on the issue of exempting people who have supported the armed forces.

“He has always used the gimmick of the post-truth Rwanda Bill to provoke rows with judges and the House of Lords, including many distinguished Conservatives,” she said.  

“But in picking a fight with those who stood with British forces overseas, he is even more out of touch with common decency than usual."

The Liberal Democrats have consistently voted to amend the government’s bill in the Lords, and Lord German, the party’s home affairs immigration spokesperson in the House of Lords, told PoliticsHome that the Prime Minister has been “backed into a corner” by the policy that he is not sure has support from the public. 

“I just can't understand why the government has put so much effort into something which is failing, expensive inhumane and terribly terribly costly in all sorts of ways to our international reputation,” he said. 

“But that's what they've decided to do.” 

He added: “I don't think that the British public are behind them. I think people are simply saying this is a bizarre, wasteful, costly and not humane way of dealing with the people and we should we should find a better alternative and that's where I think people are coming from. 

“So my impression of Rishi is well, he is backed into a corner and he's put himself certainly right back in the corner now of the playing field."

In a speech earlier today, Sunak confirmed that the first flights deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda will take off in 10-12 weeks, failing to meet the government's initial target for flights taking off in the spring.

Rishi Sunak greets the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at Downing Street
Rishi Sunak greets the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at Downing Street in May 2023

"Now of course that is later than we wanted, but we have always been clear that processing will take time.”

He added: "And if Labour peers had not spent weeks holding up the bill in the House of Lords to try to block these flights altogether, we would have begun this process weeks ago." 

There has been some bewilderment and anger among peers at the Prime Minister’s accusations of the Lords delaying or holding up the passage of the legislation, when they believe the government could have implemented a quicker timetable. 

These latest stages were pushed beyond the Easter recess after earlier stages of ping-pong did not wrap up before the break, and there were five days between the Lords last dealing with the legislation on Wednesday night, and it returning to the Commons today. 

Earlier today, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the government of “voluntarily” delaying the passage of the bill. 

After Sunak’s speech this morning, Cooper said: “The Tories are the largest party in both Houses of Parliament and they could have scheduled the final stages of the Bill a month ago but they voluntarily delayed it because they always want someone else to blame." 


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