Rwanda bill sent back to MPs after peers inflict new defeats on government

Politics

A government bill centred on deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda has been sent back to MPs after peers rejected it.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill had been debated in the House of Lords after their previous changes were dismissed by the Commons earlier this week.

In the upper chamber, the government lost seven votes by margins of around 50. The last time peers voted on amendments, the government lost by around 100 votes.

This means that a new vote will need to be scheduled in the Commons for MPs to consider the changes.

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While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he wants flights to get off the ground in the spring, it is unclear if the two parliamentary houses will be able to reach a consensus before they go on recess next week.

The defeats for the government included:

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• An amendment to make sure the legislation has “due regard” for international law, by 271 to 228;

• An amendment that states it is only safe in Rwanda while the provision in the treaty with the UK is in place, by 285 to 230;

• An amendment to check whether Rwanda complies with its treaty obligations, by 276 to 226;

• An amendment allowing individual appeals based on safety in Rwanda, by 263 to 233;

• An amendment requiring age assessments for those being deported to be carried out by the local authority, by 249 to 219;

• An amendment preventing those who say they are victims of modern slavery from being deported, by 251 to 214;

• An amendment to prevent the deportation of those who have served with or for the UK’s armed forces, by 248 to 209.

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1:47

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Labour’s Lord Vernon Coaker was among those who spoke against the government’s proposals.

He criticised the Commons for rejecting all the Lords’ initial amendments “carte blanche”.

Lord Coaker also bemoaned the continuing parliamentary ping pong which is set to continue after the Easter Christmas recess, saying it was the “government’s own management of its own timetable”.

Lord Alf Dubs, who arrived in Britain in 1939 on the Kindertransport – which organised the rescue of children from the Nazis – told the Lords it would be “an appalling dereliction of our responsibilities to vulnerable young people” if children who had been wrongly assessed as adults were sent to Rwanda.

On the other side of the debate, government and Conservative peers repeated the previous arguments, including that Rwanda was being judged as “not safe” because it’s “black”.

Lord Peter Lilley said: “I think we’re making a bit too much of the lack of provisions and safeguards now about one black country, when we had no concerns about a list of white countries.”

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And Lord Keith Stewart – who is a government law officer – said: “Accountability is at the heart of democracy. That is why the government are fully entitled to bring forward the bill and why much of the criticism directed at them for doing so is fundamentally misconceived.”

Earlier in the day, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over the policy – with the Labour leader branding it a “gimmick”, and claiming that the prime minister doesn’t believe in it.

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