Rishi sees off Rwanda rebellion but faces New Year showdown - as MPs plot to 'kill' Bill next month

13 December 2023, 00:59 | Updated: 13 December 2023, 01:17

The Bill passed with a majority of 44 votes.
The Bill passed with a majority of 44 votes. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has survived a Rwanda Bill rebellion within his party - but now faces a New Year showdown as right-wing Tories plot to 'kill' the legislation.

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The PM won a crunch vote on the Safety of Rwanda Bill on Tuesday evening after spending the day in talks with potential rebels.

MPs voted to back the Bill, with 313 votes in favour of the legislation and 269 votes against it.

But right-wing Tory factions have since said they reserve the right to vote against the draft law when it returns to the Commons next year, particularly if amendments are not made to ensure asylum seekers are deported to Rwanda before the next election.

A total of 37 Conservative MPs abstained from voting, including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick and European Research Group (ERG) Chairman Mark Francois.

It comes after Mr Francois announced moments ahead of the vote that collectively the ERG could not support the bill due to its ‘many omissions’ and so would be abstaining from the vote.

The Bill will now progress to the next Commons stage in January, when they will debate amendments.

A Tory critic said if no amendments were made, the Bill would be "killed".

"This Bill has been allowed to live another day," they told the Telegraph.

"But without amendments, it will be killed next month. It's now up to the government to decide what it wants to do."

Read more: How did your MP vote on the Rwanda Bill? Full list of results

Read more: Asylum seeker living on Bibby Stockholm barge reveals 'everyone is furious' after migrant 'took own life'

Following the outcome of the vote, Mr Sunak wrote on X: "The British people should decide who gets to come to this country – not criminal gangs or foreign courts.

"That's what this bill delivers.

"We will now work to make it law so that we can get flights going to Rwanda and stop the boats."

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: "Parliament has spoken. We must be able to choose who comes to our country - not criminal gangs. That’s what this Bill will deliver."

Sunak faces down disgruntled right-wing Tory MPs to win crunch Rwanda vote

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Downing Street said: “Tonight the House has shown its support for the Prime Minister’s legislation to deem Rwanda safe and stop the boats.

“This bill is the toughest legislation ever introduced to parliament. It deems Rwanda safe notwithstanding any other interpretation of international law and it makes clear that this parliament, not any foreign court is sovereign.

“We will now work to ensure that this Bill gets on to the Statute book so that we can get flights off to Rwanda and stop the boats.”

MPs gathered in Parliament for the vote on Tuesday.
MPs gathered in Parliament for the vote on Tuesday. Picture: Parliament TV

Before the vote, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick took aim at the government, calling the Bill 'flawed' and accusing it of "sophistry".

While co-chair of the Tory faction of 'New Conservatives' - one of the so-called 'five families', in reference to the leading mafia dynasties of New York City - Danny Kruger also took aim at the bill in the debate on Tuesday evening, dubbing it 'unsatisfactory' before confirming he would not vote with the government.

The Bill compels judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country after the Supreme Court ruled the scheme was unlawful over risks to refugees.

The legislation would give ministers the powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act.

But it does not go as far as providing allowing them to dismiss the European Convention on Human Rights, as hardliners including sacked home secretary Suella Braverman have demanded.

Read more: Asylum seeker 'takes own life' on board Bibby Stockholm barge ahead of Rishi's crunch Rwanda vote

Mr Sunak has avoided a Tory rebellion.
Mr Sunak has avoided a Tory rebellion. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak received a boost from One Nation Tory MPs ahead of the vote, as the group of around 100 confirmed their plans on Monday to back the Bill.

The ERG's so-called 'Star Chamber' of legal experts earlier published a letter to members, stating the Bill needed "significant amendments".

"The Bill overall provides a partial and incomplete solution to the problem of legal challenges in the UK courts being used as stratagems to delay or defeat the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda," a letter from the lawyers of the prominent group of pro-Brexit MPs stated.

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