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Sunak warned not to ‘bounce’ MPs into backing Rwanda legislation

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plans are being closely watched by right-wing MPs (Justin Tallis/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plans are being closely watched by right-wing MPs (Justin Tallis/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been warned not to “bounce” Tory MPs into backing his Rwanda legislation, as right-wing backbenchers pledged to study the so-far unpublished Bill in detail.

Members of the right-wing European Research Group (ERG), as well as MPs from the Common Sense and New Conservative groupings, met in Parliament on Tuesday hours after Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a legally-binding treaty with Rwanda.

The Government believes that the treaty addresses the reasons that led the Supreme Court to deem the flagship asylum policy unlawful, with “emergency” legislation coming before Parliament “soon” to determine that Rwanda is a safe destination.

ERG chairman Mark Francois said the group’s so-called “star chamber” of lawyers would scrutinise the legislation before MPs vote on it.

Promising a conclusion in a matter of days once the details are made public, he told Sky News: “They will then examine the Bill in detail to look at the question of whether it fully respects parliamentary sovereignty and whether it contains unambiguous wording that would facilitate planes taking off to Rwanda.”

He told Mr Sunak that it would be “unwise” to “bounce” Parliament into backing the legislation without giving MPs a chance to properly assess it.

The right-wing New Conservative group of MPs, led by Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger and Sir John Hayes, and the Common Sense Group, have long demanded tough action on both illegal and legal migration to the UK.

James Cleverly visit to Rwanda
Home Secretary James Cleverly during a press conference with Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

It comes as the Prime Minister faced pressure from the opposite wing of his party, with more centrist MPs warning that any move to override the European Convention on Human Rights as part of the Rwanda plan would be a “red line”.

Tory MPs from the “One Nation” faction of the party have called on ministers to ensure that the country maintains its international obligations and follows the rule of law.

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green said that he did not want to see tinkering with UK obligations under the ECHR or Refugee Convention but to “get on with” the Rwanda plan.

“What I am most encouraged by is what the Home Secretary said, which is the purpose of the treaty he signed is to directly address the problems the Supreme Court had with the system,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

He added: “You can then persuade the Supreme Court this new system or the system under the new treaty will be legal and we can get on with it.”

Undermining international obligations would be the “wrong thing for this country to do, bad for our international reputation”, while also making it “pretty much impossible” for any Bill to make it through the Lords.

Stephen Hammond, a member of the One Nation grouping, said: “The Prime Minister has a tricky task on his hands to balance the economy, labour market, and stopping the boats.

“The package by the Home Secretary shows this is possible and, importantly, can be achieved by not leaving the ECHR, which would be a mistake and doesn’t have public support.

“Furthermore, moderates and mainstream Conservative MPs may struggle to support a so-called full-fat deal.”

Another Tory MP, Matt Warman, said: “Overriding the ECHR is a red line for a number of Conservatives.

“Protecting and reforming institutions and upholding human rights should be the cornerstone of any Conservative government.

“That’s why the Government should be cautious about using an approach which could potentially undermine the Conservatives’ long-lasting legacy on human rights and indeed our own existing, highly effective arrangements with Albania, France and other crucial partners.”