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Government Confirms MPs Won't Tackle Rwanda Bill Until Mid-April

Boats used by people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, January 2024 (Alamy)

3 min read

The Rwanda Bill will not be passed until mid-April at the earliest, with confirmation this morning that MPs will get the chance to vote on Lords’ amendments on their first day back in Parliament after Easter recess.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt told MPs this morning that the Safety of Rwanda Bill will be back in the Commons on 15 April, with time also allocated for them to look at it again two days later on 17 April if peers decide to make any further changes. 

It had been expected that the legislation could be on the statute book before Easter as Rishi Sunak hopes to get his plans so send asylum seekers to the African country operational.

Labour frontbencher Lucy Powell said that the government’s timetable “keeps getting stretched”. Mordaunt said that she blames “Labour Lords” for the delay that could see flights grounded for weeks from now. 

On Wednesday night, the Lords approved seven new amendments to the government’s legislation, after their ten previous changes were thrown out by the Commons earlier this week. 

Their changes included exempting people who had supported the UK armed forces overseas from deportation to Rwanda, and a provision to force the government to give “due regard” to domestic and international law. 

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. The plans are a core part of Rishi Sunak's pledge to stop small boat crossings. 

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.  

Addressing Mordaunt in the Commons today Powell asked “why if it’s such an emergency has she delayed programming this legislation?” 

“She delayed committee stage over Christmas because of disquiet on their side. Now she's pushed back further Lords amendments until after Easter. I know she will want to blame the Lords but he's her timetable and it keeps getting stretched.” 

If the government was ready to “implement” the scheme, “we would see the bill back here next week,” Powell added.  

“This is their timetable, it's their delay, no one else's.”

Mordaunt insisted that she had "no wish to blame Their Lordships for the delay in this bill," but instead blamed Labour overall. 

The bill is currently in the middle of a process known as ping-pong, where it bounces between the Commons and the Lords while amendments are approved or stripped out. 

The government has not accepted any of the changes made by peers so far, and if all of their amendments are removed once again on 15 April, it will go back to peers for them to consider again. 

At that point they could either accept the legislation in its current form, or put forward more amendments which if accepted would again need to be considered by the Commons. 

There has been some bewilderment among peers as the week has gone on as to why time had not been put aside for the legislation next week in an attempt to get it finalised ahead of the Easter break. 

One peer had predicted that the legislation would be back with them at the start of next week, having already been whittled down again by MPs, while another described the fact they would not see it again before Easter as “weird”. 

According to statistics published by the Home Office, 514 migrants crossed the Channel in 10 boats on Wednesday. This followed 61 who crossed on Tuesday. 

 

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