Rwanda bill will 'die in a month without amendments' as Sunak faces battle with Tory right

Parliament approved the controversial Rwanda Bill at second reading by 313 votes to 269 in a crunch vote on Tuesday evening, ITV News' Robert Peston and Carl Dinnen report

Rishi Sunak faces a new year showdown over his Rwanda deportation policy after right-wing Conservative MPs said they could vote emergency legislation down if it is not tightened.

The prime minister has won a crunch vote on his Rwanda plan despite right-wing Conservative factions announcing earlier they could not back emergency "stop the boats" legislation.

Sunak faced a test of his authority, with there appearing to be fears in his administration that a potential rebellion could see the Safety of Rwanda Bill defeated at its first hurdle in the Commons.

But Parliament approved the Bill at second reading by 313 votes to 269 in a crunch vote on Tuesday evening.

However, right-wing Tory factions said they reserved the right to vote against the draft law when it returns to the Commons next year if its contents are not strengthened to ensure asylum seekers can be deported to Rwanda before the next election.

A Tory rebel source said: “This Bill has been allowed to live another day.“But without amendments it will be killed next month. It is now up to the government to decide what it wants to do.”

How difficult will it be for Rishi Sunak to keep the promises he made to MPs? ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston on why the prime minister isn't out of the woods yet

The division list showed no Tory MPs voted against giving the Bill a second reading but there were 38 listed as having no vote recorded, although this does not automatically equate to an abstention.

Senior Tory MPs who recorded no vote included former home secretary Suella Braverman, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick and former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke, with all three of them having been outspoken critics of the emergency draft law.

Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of Eurosceptic Tories, and Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger from the New Conservatives group also recorded no vote.

Both their right-wing factions, along with Common Sense Group, the Conservative Growth Group and Northern Research Group - dubbed the “five families” - announced after a joint meeting in Westminster that they could not back the legislation.

Mrs Braverman, Mr Jenrick and Sir Simon were also in attendance at the 90-minute meeting.

Labour said the result meant the Tory “psychodrama” over tackling Channel crossings, which Mr Sunak has pledged to prevent ahead of a likely general election next year, would “drag on” into 2024.

Mr Sunak posted to social media platform X following the win to say he will work to put his emergency legislation into law “so that we can get flights going to Rwanda and stop the boats”.

MPs have approved the Safety of Rwanda Bill at second reading by 313 votes to 269, majority 44. Credit: PA

On the vote, home secretary James Cleverly said: "Parliament has spoken. We must be able to choose who comes to our country – not criminal gangs. That’s what this Bill will deliver.”

Meanwhile, despite voting to support the Bill, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said he could always rescind his backing at a later date.He added there are divisions in the Conservative Party, but that "these divisions are about big issues and I think what the public want is a result at the end of this".

Mr Duncan Smith added: “They want something done - we made a pledge, Rishi Sunak made a pledge, to stop the boats, and we want to deliver it.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Conservatives’ civil war is continuing, and the country is paying the price for this chaos

“Today’s debate shows how weak Rishi Sunak is with this Tory psychodrama now dragging on into the new year.”

It comes as ITV News received confirmation on Tuesday morning that an asylum seeker living on the Bibby Stockholm barge has died by suicide.

Mr Cleverly later said that "tragically there has been [a] death on the Bibby Stockholm barge".

James Cleverly confirmed in the House of Commons that there had been a death on the Bibby Stockholm barge

Speaking in the Commons, he did not elaborate any further, saying "the house will understand that at this stage I'm uncomfortable of going into any more details".

The Bibby Stockholm barge has been blighted with health and safety issues - such as a legionella bacteria outbreak - from the moment it docked at Portland Port, in Dorset, in August.

Some asylum seekers housed there could be sent to Rwanda.

The bill, outlined by Mr Sunak last week, allows ministers to disapply the Human Rights Act but, does not go as far as overriding the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Along with a new treaty revealed last week with Kigali, the Bill is part of Mr Sunak’s plan to appease concerns of the Supreme Court about the treatment of asylum seekers who could potentially be deported to the east African nation.

ITV News Reporter Aisha Zahid recaps the controversial Rwanda policy and how we arrived at today's vote

It is designed to declare Rwanda is a safe country for asylum processing purposes and prevent judges from blocking sending migrants who arrive via small boats after crossing the Channel on a one-way trip to Kigali.

The government's current assessment is that only one in 200 cases will successfully avoid being sent to Rwanda once the Bill becomes law.

But critics of the plan, which currently costs £290 million, have disputed the Home Office's modelling of how effective it would be.

Mr Jenrick, who quit last week in opposition to the Bill, used a speech to the Commons on Tuesday to push for stricter curbs on a migrant's ability to legally challenge their removal and for the ability to overrule ECHR injunctions.

He told MPs: "This Bill could be so much better. Let's make it better."

Downing Street said it was prepared to listen to proposed changes from MPs at a later stage but Mr Cleverly suggested in the Commons that the legislation was already close to the limits of what would be possible.

The prime minister worked to avert a rebellion, making efforts to woo potential rebels over breakfast in Downing Street on Tuesday.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...