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The Immigration Bill is back - but so are the Tory rebels

The Immigration Bill has returned to the House of Commons. Photo: PA

It's already been paused once. The Immigration Bill was shunted into the sidings over Christmas while ministers worked out how to head off the rebellion they could see coming down the tracks. Now it's back. But so are the Tory rebels.

The Bill was the centre piece of the government's legislative programme for this session:

  • It tightens access for immigrants to the health service and to rent accommodation.
  • It will trigger the immediate deportation of some immigrants who failed to win the right to stay before they can lodge an appeal.
  • It will restrict the ability of foreign criminals to claim a "right to family life" in order to avoid being deported.

In a bid to use up as much of the limited time available in the Commons today, Home Secretary Theresa May has dumped more than 50 amendments of her own on the legislation.

They are mostly technical ones but the Tory rebels claim it's an old government trick to prevent the other amendments seeing the light of day.

The most popular one has been tabled by Tory MP Dominic Raab.

Theresa May has dumped more than 50 amendments of her own on the legislation. Credit: PA

He says he has more than 100 supporters for his plan to automatically deport foreign criminals except in the most extreme cases where they risk execution or murder in their native country.

But because of the tight timescale, he will not know until this morning if it'll get debated at all.

If not he warns, David Cameron risks creating a lot of resentment among his own MPs.

Time will not be a problem for another Tory member, Nigel Mills.

His amendment will be debated even though the Home Office tell me it's illegal under European law.

Mr Mills wants controls reimposed on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants even though the UK was forced to lift them at the start of the year.

For these MPs, it's all about reminding voters who controls our borders - and if it's necessary to have a parliamentary scrap to make that clear - so be it.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage claims to have led the debate on immigration. Credit: PA

One MP went further last night. Eurosceptic Douglas Carswell withdrew his support for the rebel amendments saying it was all just hot air. The real issue, claimed Mr Carswell in an interview with ITV News, is that Britain needs to leave the EU to really control who is coming in and out of the country.

It's a sharp reminder of the difficulty David Cameron has with this party on this issue.

The frantic efforts of the whips does seem to be working though. Rebels are being picked off one by one.

But how long will it before before the next row with the backbenchers over who has the last word on what we can and can't do at our borders?

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