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Peers told ‘enough is enough’ as Parliament faces all-night Rwanda Bill sitting

(House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)
(House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

MPs have issued a fresh challenge to peers over changes to the Government’s flagship Rwanda plan, as the parliamentary gridlock heads towards a potential overnight showdown.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson told peers “enough is enough” as he urged them to relent in making changes to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

The Bill aims to legally bolster the Government’s Rwanda deportation plan, which would see some asylum seekers flown on a one-way trip to the east African nation.

Ministers hope this will act as a deterrent to migrants attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats.

Earlier on Monday, Rishi Sunak blamed Labour peers for holding up the Bill, as he acknowledged he will miss his self-imposed spring target for getting the Rwanda scheme off the ground.

In the latest round of a protracted back-and-forth between the Commons and Lords, the upper House last week amended the Bill to include an exemption for Afghan nationals who assisted British troops.

It also added a provision to the Bill meaning Rwanda could not be treated as safe unless it was deemed so by an independent monitoring body.

On Monday the Commons rejected the two amendments, meaning the Bill will return to the Lords later, where peers will choose whether to insist on their changes.

Opening the debate in the Commons, Mr Tomlinson said: “It appears that I was indeed optimistic last week when I foresaw the end of ping pong and I looked forward to the time when we were not debating this particular piece of legislation. It’s disappointing that we are back here again.

“Of course, the other place should undertake its role as a revising chamber and of course they’re entitled to ask the Government to think again. But did we think again and again?”

He added: “Enough is enough. The opposition have delayed this Bill for too long, we must get on with it.

“I urge this House once again to send an unambiguous message to the other place, the time has come for Labour lords to respect the view of this House and let this Bill now pass.”

Despite a majority in both votes, a swathe of MPs urged the Government to compromise in its approach to Afghan nationals and others who have helped British forces overseas.

DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) said: “Does the minister not agree that there’s a simple way out of this deadlock, and that is to accept that those who can demonstrate that they were assisting the British forces in Afghanistan?”

His DUP colleague Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) claimed the UK has a “moral duty” to help Afghan nationals fleeing the Taliban because they assisted British forces.

Labour MP John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) said the measure “cannot be seen as a wrecking amendment in any way”, adding: “I urge the other place to stand firm on this one, because I actually do think the British public support this amendment as well.”

Tory former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland called on ministers to show “a little further movement” on the issue.

Sir Robert Buckland
Sir Robert Buckland (Liam McBurney/PA)

He was the only Conservative MP not to vote with the Government.

But he was joined by Tory former minister Sir Jeremy Wright in rebelling against the Government on attempts to ensure the safety of Rwanda is monitored by an outside body.

Mr Tomlinson said the the Government would not deport those eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) to Rwanda.

“Once this review of Arap decisions for those with credible links to Afghan specialist units has concluded, the Government will not remove to Rwanda those who received a positive eligibility decision as a result of this review where they are already in the United Kingdom,” he said.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock told the Commons: “You could be forgiven for concluding that the truth of the matter is that ministers have been deliberately stringing this out, for two reasons.

“Firstly, because they thought that they could make some grubby political capital from the delay, and secondly, because they’ve been scrambling to get a flight organised and all the other logistics that are not in place.”

In a morning press conference the Prime Minister acknowledged it will still be 10 to 12 weeks before the first plane carrying asylum seekers takes off.

After that, there will be “multiple flights a month through the summer and beyond”, he said.

He blamed Labour opposition to the plan for the delay, and said MPs and peers will sit through the night if necessary to get the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill passed.

Tory former minister Tim Loughton told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme he had his sleeping bag ready for the possibility.

Catering staff in the Lords have made provision to offer refreshments into the night.