Rishi Sunak's Rwanda warning: PM to hold press conference ahead of parliamentary showdown over flagship bill

22 April 2024, 09:14

Rishi Sunak (l) to hold a press conference today where he will warn Lords to back his flagship bill to send migrants to Rwanda
Rishi Sunak (l) to hold a press conference today where he will warn Lords to back his flagship bill to send migrants to Rwanda. Picture: alamy/getty

By StephenRigley

Rishi Sunak will hold a surprise press conference this morning to demand the House of Lords back off and let his flagship Rwanda Bill pass.

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The PM will address the country from Downing Street ahead of a final parliamentary showdown over the Government's deportation plan for asylum seekers.

He will warn that he is ready to make MPs and peers sit through the night to break an impasse on the legislation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is to say his patience has run out as his key pledge to 'stop the boats' is on the line
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is to say his patience has run out as his key pledge to 'stop the boats' is on the line. Picture: Alamy

The showdown comes after the House of Lords again refused to back down last week, passing more amendments to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill despite MPs repeatedly dismissing their objections.

Mr Sunak is expected to deliver a stern message to peers this morning that his patience has run out, with his pledge to 'stop the boats' on the line.

The PM said his patience with those blocking the Bill had “run thin”, adding: “No more prevarication, no more delay.

"We will sit there and vote until it’s done.”

The proposed law aims to send some asylum seekers to Kigali in order to deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill and a new treaty are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

Today Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC that "it is time" that the Lords "accept the will of the elected house, the House of Commons."

He said: "They've made their points, the House of Commons has reiterated that we want the bill to go through in its current state.

"It's got virtually unanimous support within the Tory party, and actually within the country, people want to see the issue of these illegal crossings tackled and the bill will do that.

"It's part of a tapestry of things that will ensure that happens. And I hope very much that we'll see the bill on the statute books so that we can have this deterrent in place as soon as.

"I'm very confident that the House of Lords will accept the will of the House of Commons, the elected Chamber and now allow the bill to proceed."

Andrew Mitchell on the Rwanda Bill

Read More: MPs reject Rwanda Bill amendments as showdown with House of Lords continues

Read More: Sunak wants to deport migrants to Armenia, Costa Rica and Botswana in a bid to replicate Rwanda scheme

Last week, peers amended the Bill to include an exemption for Afghan nationals who assisted British troops and a provision meaning Rwanda cannot be treated as safe unless it is deemed so by an independent monitoring body.

MPs are expected to vote to overturn those changes this afternoon before sending the Bill back to the House of Lords.

Assuming MPs remove those amendments tonight, they will send the Bill immediately back to the Upper House - and continue to sit until peers accept the will of the elected House.

Stopping the boats is one of the PM's pledges
Stopping the boats is one of the PM's pledges. Picture: Getty

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The last time a standoff between the Houses went into the early hours was more than a decade ago, with politicians relying on camp beds as they batted legislation backwards and forwards. 

If peers pass exactly the same amendment twice, the Commons faces the choice of either accepting the change or losing the Bill under a rarely-used process known as 'double insistence'.

Lord Alex Carlile told LBC News that Rishi Sunak is being “extremely disrespectful” to Jewish members of the Lords by keeping them late into tonight as Passover begins. He claims what is happening today is a “form of bullying”.

“Given that this could have been postponed to tomorrow, when I believe that most of the Jewish peers would have been willing to be there, I think he's being extremely disrespectful and very unwise.

“The government bangs on about diversity in the community, but this is an example of diversity being ignored.

"I'm not saying that every religious festival should be honoured to the letter. We can't take a whole month off for Ramadan. Obviously, we can't take off, always, the lengthy period between pre-Christmas and post-Christmas because it might offend the Anglican and the Christian churches.

"But this could have been respected and what is happening today is a form of bullying and it's entirely disrespectful and the Prime Minister ought to be ashamed of himself. I'm sure his whips in the House of Lords who are very nice people will be embarrassed.”

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