Politics

Relief for Rishi Sunak as Rwanda bill passes final Commons hurdle

Rishi Sunak appears to have seen off a Tory rebellion as his controversial Rwanda bill passed its final hurdle in the Commons.

The bill, which aims to declare that Rwanda is a safe country to deport asylum seekers to, passed by 320 votes to 276 – a majority of 44 for the government.

The bill’s passage came despite a number of Tory MPs publicly saying they would vote against it at its third reading – including former home secretary Suella Braverman and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

On Wednesday night, MPs considered a series of amendments designed to toughen up the bill before voting on the bill as a whole.

One, proposed by Mr Jenrick, demanded that rule 39 orders from Strasbourg judges should not be binding for the UK.

In June 2022 it was a rule 39 order – which have been referred to as “pyjama injunctions” for the late time at which they are often issued – that prevented the first flight to Rwanda from taking off.

While MPs overall rejected Mr Jenrick’s amendment by a majority of 469 votes, the rebellion was significant – with 67 MPs voting for it.

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That included 61 Tory MPs, including the two tellers who verify the count.

Downing Street had been engaging with MPs with doubts about the legislation after Mr Sunak suffered the resignation of three MPs on Tuesday night over the bill – Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, deputy chairs of the Conservative Party, and Jane Stevenson, a parliamentary private secretary in the Department for Business and Trade.

The MPs resigned after they backed amendments put forward by veteran MP Sir Bill Cash and Mr Jenrick.

While the amendments were rejected overall by MPs on Tuesday night, 60 Conservatives defied the government and backed Sir Bill’s amendment.

Mr Sunak had been prepared for a collision with right-wing Tories over the bill, which is aimed at reviving his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda if they attempt to come to the UK via small boat crossings in the Channel.

The bill, which is designed to enable parliament to confirm Rwanda is a “safe country”, gives ministers the powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act, but does not go as far as allowing them to dismiss the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) entirely – a demand of some on the right.

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