Rishi Sunak handed victory in key second reading vote, but his restless MPs fire warning shot about future votes on Rwanda Bill, by Alistair Thompson

Image via Reuters

In a rare bit of good news for the embattled Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak’s much talked about Rwanda Bill sailed through its second reading in Parliament yesterday evening.

A jubilant Down Street was relived that after days of wrangling by MPs on the right and left of the Conservative Party who threatened to torpedo the draft legislation, not a single one voted against the Bill, although 29 abstained.

Following the vote, the PM, in an highly unusual display of emotion, was seen hugging Mr Hart on the floor of the Commons.

The PM commented: “The British people should decide who gets to come to this country – not criminal gangs or foreign courts. That’s what this Bill delivers. We will now work to make it law so that we can get flights going to Rwanda and stop the boats.”

While a No 10 spokesman said: “Tonight the House has shown its support for the Prime Minister’s legislation to deem Rwanda safe and stop the boats. This Bill is the toughest legislation ever introduced to Parliament.
“It deems Rwanda safe notwithstanding any other interpretation of international law, and it makes clear that this Parliament, not any foreign court, is sovereign.

“We will now work to ensure that this Bill gets on to the statute book so that we can get flights off to Rwanda and stop the boats.”

The victory is seen as a major coup for the Chief Whip, Simon Hart, who parliamentnews.co.uk has been told has declared war on the Tory right and who led efforts to get the Bill through the Commons at this crucial stage.

An ally of the Chief Whip, told this website last night that “Simon had done the impossible, and had given the PM a major victory against the right-wing nutters.” They added that the gamble the left of the Party would fall into place had also paid off.

However, the celebrations might be premature as there were rumblings from both wings of the Party, with members of the New Conservatives, ERG, Common Sense Group NRG and promising to vote the legislation down if it’s not toughened up, while those in the One Nation caucus are still promising to veto legislation that threatens to break a slew of international treaties.

Explaining the vote, one MP told me the feeling amongst his colleagues was to try and fix the Bill, rather than killing it off.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill the Government’s latest attempt to try and make its’ flagship immigration plan to deport illegal asylum-seekers to Rwanda less likely to be challenged in the Courts, because not a single person has been deported since its introduction last year and the policy costing an eyewatering £290 million.

The Government was been forced to introduce the latest Bill, following last month’s Supreme Court Ruling which found, that while “…the Home Secretary to treat an asylum claim as inadmissible if the claimant had the opportunity to apply for asylum in a safe third country but did not do so. The claimant can then be removed from the UK to any safe third country which agrees to accept them…” but they did not consider Rwanda to meet the definition of a safe country.

The Judges continued: “This principle requires that asylum seekers are not returned, directly or indirectly, to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, or they would be at real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment…

“…The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the Home Secretary’s appeal, and upholds the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the Rwanda policy is unlawful. This is because there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were removed to Rwanda.”

In response to this set back, the Government signed a new treaty with Rwanda and has beefed up the safeguards for those who get deported. The Bill then unilaterally declares Rwanda a safe country, disapplies parts of the Human Rights Act to allow and gives ministers the right to ignore the European Court of Human Rights if it tries to intervene.

The Government wants to get the Bill through Parliament as quickly possible so flights to Rwanda can start before the General Election, with the high level of immigration likely to be a key issue.

Alistair Thompson

Alistair Thompson is the Director of Team Britannia PR and a journalist.