Advertisement

When is the Rwanda bill vote? Rishi Sunak faces Tory rebellion in Commons

Rishi Sunak faces considerable setbacks after two senior Tory resignations amid a right-wing revolt over the Safety of Rwanda Bill.

Deputy chairs Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith were among 60 MPs pushing amendments to the controversial Rwanda deportation bill this week.

Just before a round of votes on Tuesday evening, Mr Anderson and Mr Clarke-Smith confirmed their departures over the bill. Junior Government aide Jane Stevenson then became the third resignation.

The bill seeks to send asylum seekers and economic migrants who arrive in the UK in small boats to Rwanda. However, some on the right of the Tory party have argued that a tougher law is needed to ensure the scheme works.

MPs are now in their second day of debate over proposed amendments, none of which are expected to pass. As a result, a third reading of the Bill is due to take place today (January 17) in the House of Commons.

Just 29 rebels would be enough to sink Sunak's majority and leave the bill dead in the water.

Mr Sunak is now facing one of the biggest challenges to his authority from his MPs — and his party remains riven with divisions. The prime minister is reportedly at risk of seeing a vote of no confidence from members of his party who are unhappy with the policy and direction.

Mr Sunak had previously used his party to "unite or die" at this crucial stage, but whether they will remains to be seen.

What is the Rwanda bill MPs are voting on?

The Rwanda Bill aims to cut immigration rates to the UK and deter people from crossing the English Channel in small boats. It's part of Mr Sunak's wider immigration plan and something that will likely be a hot topic at the upcoming general election.

However, the Supreme Court last year ruled that plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda were unlawful.

Mr Sunak then put forward emergency legislation that sought to allow Parliament to deem Rwanda a “safe” country.

The aim was to essentially outmanoeuvre the recent Supreme Court ruling. It was also to limit the Human Rights Act by blocking courts and tribunals from considering claims that the country has not acted under the Refugee Convention or other international obligations.

While the bill was already controversial, the PM has faced massive challenges from within his party at both ends of the spectrum.

Those on the right appear to prioritise national sovereignty and a desire to see the £290 million plan to “stop the boats” enforced. Meanwhile, those on the left emphasise the rule of law and the UK’s international obligations.

Despite the setbacks, a second reading of the Safety of Rwanda Bill was approved in December 2023 by a majority of 44. A third reading could take place on Wednesday (January 17) — but there's uncertainty whether Mr Sunak can achieve a majority this time.

A Government bill has not been defeated this early on since 1986.

Before the third reading, MPs had the opportunity to propose a series of amendments to the bill. However, Tuesday night's debates appeared to show little progress in the deadlock.

When is the vote on the Rwanda bill?

Votes on proposed amendments took place on Tuesday evening this week. A second round of votes on the amendments is also expected to happen on Wednesday at around 7pm.

If no amendments are approved, then a third reading of the bill — that will remain in the same form — will take place shortly afterwards.

What amendments have there been to the Rwanda bill?

No amendments brought forward on Tuesday were approved.

A list of all the amendments proposed for the Safety of the Rwanda Bill can be found here.

Some of the amendments debated on Tuesday included amendment 10 proposed by Sir Bill Cash. This aimed to limit the ability of the UK or international law to "prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of any individual". It was rejected by a majority of 461.

Another noteworthy amendment was 19, one of many proposed by Robert Jenrick. This sought to “remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel". Some 467 votes defeated it.

While these amendments have been defeated, the number of Tories that have backed the amendments shouldn't go unnoticed. This could signal a major upset for Mr Sunak if the bill goes to its third reading later today.

What will happen if the Rwanda bill is passed?

If the Commons decides the bill can pass the third reading, it can be taken to the next stage.

However, it could face problems in the House of Lords, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps conceded — despite believing the Commons can pass it through “for sure".

He said: “Sometimes you have to fight these things through."

Others are more convinced that the bill could face serious issues, including Mr Jenrick, who quit his post as immigration minister over the legislation. He had previously told the BBC he would not support the “weak bill that will not work” but added: “We can fix this."

A legal assessment for the Government has said that, due to interim injunctions from Strasbourg, there is only a “50 per cent at best” chance of successfully getting flights off to Kigali next year.

What will happen if the Rwanda bill is opposed?

A defeat of the vote at this stage would shred Mr Sunak's authority and could be extremely damaging to his leadership.

One Nation chairman Damian Green said any Conservatives who think they should change leader is "either mad, or malicious, or both".

While the Supreme Court cannot strike down primary legislation, it has the power to make a Declaration of Incompatibility. This is a judgment that says an Act of Parliament should be rethought as Parliament would, in theory, amend the law given the opportunity.