Rwanda Bill: MPs reject Lords changes as Sunak plans Spring deportations

The Bill will now return to the Lords, who will then send it back to the Commons again, as the prime minister pledges to get the scheme going this spring

MPs have overturned all 10 amendments made to the Rwanda Bill by the House of Lords as they accused peers of trying to "wreck" Rishi Sunak's flagship policy.

MPs voted by solid majorities to reject the changes suggested by peers to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

The amendments overturned included an attempt by peers to ensure the Bill complies with domestic and international law, and a requirement that Parliament cannot declare Rwanda to be a safe country until the treaty with its promised safeguards is fully implemented.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson said Rwanda has a "long and proud history" of integrating asylum seekers and refugees and said the UK government had “published evidence” in support of Rwanda being a safe country.

He also told the Commons: "They are wrecking amendments."

The proposed legislation seeks to compel judges to regard the East African country as safe in a bid to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Rwanda.

For Labour, shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock said of the 10 amendments: “They each serve to make this shambolic mess of a Bill marginally less absurd, and they would serve only to put in statute what ministers have actually promised from that despatch box.

“Not one of these amendments is designed to prevent the departure of flights to Rwanda, as the prime minister has repeatedly and wrongly implied that they will.”

Conservative former minister Sir John Hayes questioned whether peers were “clueless or careless” about what is happening with immigration.

Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash (Stone) criticised amendments made by peers and urged Parliament to “get on” with the Bill, saying MPs should be “very firm” with the Lords.

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The scheme could cost taxpayers nearly £2 million for each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Rwanda, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

For comparison, a near-space flight on Virgin Galactic costs £356,000 per person.

With the rejections from the Commons, the Bill will now return to the Lords, who will then send it back to the Commons.

The process, known as ping-pong, will continue until both Houses agree on wording.

The Commons goes into its Easter recess at the close of business on March 26, meaning that if the Lords maintain their resistance to the legislation it is unlikely to pass before the break.

But officials believe that will still leave just enough time for Mr Sunak to meet his pledge of getting a plane in the air this spring.

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