Rwanda Bill delayed until after Easter as House of Lords inflicts multiple fresh defeats on Government

20 March 2024, 20:02 | Updated: 20 March 2024, 20:10

The Rwanda bill suffered multiple defeats in the House of Lords.
The Rwanda bill suffered multiple defeats in the House of Lords. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The Government has suffered multiple defeats following a vote on the Rwanda bill in the House of Lords.

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The Lords backed seven amendments to the Government’s Rwanda bill on Wednesday evening.

Among the amendments included one seeking to ensure legislation pays “due regard” to domestic and international law.

Labour’s proposed changes on domestic and international law were passed by 271 to 228 votes.

MPs will now have to vote on the bill again, meaning the bill’s passage will be delayed until after Easter, as the Commons goes to recess on March 26 with peers heading away from Westminster a day later.

The bill will return to the Commons on April 15 for votes on the amendments.

Mr Sunak previously set the target of deportation flights setting off for Kigali by the spring.

But No 10 officials insisted that even if the legislation is not passed until after Easter, the Prime Minister can still meet his goal of having the first planeload of asylum seekers heading to the East African country this spring.

It comes after MPs rejected 10 amendments to the bill earlier this week.

Read more: Archbishop of Canterbury backs shake-up to 'broken' asylum system ahead of showdown over Rwanda Bill

Read more: MPs reject Rwanda Bill amendments as Sunak faces fresh battle with Lords over migrant plan

The House of Lords has inflicted another defeat on the Government's Rwanda bill.
The House of Lords has inflicted another defeat on the Government's Rwanda bill. Picture: Alamy

Among the amendments overturned was an attempt to ensure the bill complies with domestic and international law and a requirement that Parliament cannot declare Rwanda to be a safe country until the treaty with its promised safeguards is fully implemented.

Peers also moved an amendment to exempt people from removal to Rwanda if they have worked with the UK armed forces or UK Government overseas

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson said Rwanda has a "long and proud history" of integrating asylum seekers and refugees and said the UK Government had "published evidence" in support of Rwanda being a safe country.

But speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr on Monday, Lord Deben said: "The government has said that Rwanda will be safe, but isn't safe at the moment.

"They're asking me to vote that it is safe and I've never told a public lie in all the 16 years of being a minister. I'm not going to tell one now."

He added: "I want it to be constitutionally right. That's what the House of Lords is there for and that's the one time in which the House of Lords could properly stop a bill because it is unconstitutional."

The scheme could cost taxpayers nearly £2 million for each of the first 300 asylum seekers sent to Rwanda, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

On Tuesday evening, Home Secretary James Cleverly urged the unelected chamber to "let this Bill pass".

Some 3,529 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after making the journey from France, according to the latest provisional Home Office figures.