Posted on April 23, 2024

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill Finally Passes After Eight Hours of Painstaking Debate

The Telegraph, April 23, 2024

Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill finally cleared Parliament early on Tuesday morning after eight hours of debate as MPs and peers sat through the night to pass the flagship legislation.

The Prime Minister is now significantly closer to the first deportation flight taking off following weeks of back and forth between the two Houses.

Mr Sunak had ordered parliamentarians to “sit there tonight and vote no matter how late it goes” in advance of a fourth round of ‘ping pong’ between the Commons and the Lords.

MPs voted down two Lords amendments just before 6pm on Monday. The first aimed to make it easier to declare Rwanda unsafe if necessary in future and the second urged those who have helped the Army overseas – including Afghan interpreters – to be made exempt.

While the Lords proceeded to table narrower amendments, these were also defeated by the Commons and as the night went by peers eventually yielded to the will of the Government.

It is a major coup for Mr Sunak and in theory a step closer to his objective of stopping the boats.

But he was forced to admit on Monday that the first deportation flight will not get off the ground for another 10 to 12 weeks, meaning illegal Channel migrants will not reach Rwanda until July.

Tory MPs including Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, and Robert Jenrick, who was her deputy, have warned the Bill is likely to prove ineffective in its current form.

There is also the possibility of further legal challenges, which have delayed the Rwanda plan on a number of occasions.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the Bill passing was a “landmark moment in our plan to stop the boats”.

In a video posted to social media, he said: “The Safety of Rwanda Bill has passed in Parliament and it will become law within days.

“The Act will prevent people from abusing the law by using false human rights claims to block removals. And it makes clear that the UK Parliament is sovereign, giving Government the power to reject interim blocking measures imposed by European courts.

“I promised to do what was necessary to clear the path for the first flight. That’s what we have done.

“Now we’re working day in and day out to get flights off the ground.”

Speaking at the start of the Commons debate on Monday, Michael Tomlinson, the illegal migration minister, told MPs: “Criminal gangs are determining who comes to the United Kingdom as vulnerable people are being lured into unseaworthy boats and risking their lives. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being spent on illegal migration.

“Our resources and services are reaching their limits. We must put an end to it. We must pass this legislation and stop the boats. I urge this House once again to send an unambiguous message to the other place. The time has come for the Labour Lords to respect the views of this House and let this Bill now pass.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has insisted a Labour government would tear up the Rwanda plan if elected at the general election, which is expected to take place in the second half of the year.

After the Bill passed human rights groups condemned the Rwanda plan as a “breach of international law”.

The charity Freedom from Torture, alongside Amnesty International and Liberty, criticised the Government for ignoring the findings of the Supreme Court, which ruled the policy was unlawful in November.

The groups said the Bill poses “a significant threat to the rule of law” by undermining what protects people from an abuse of power by the state, and described Parliament as a “crime scene”.