Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill 'set to pass comfortably' with Conservative rebels 'melting away'

17 January 2024, 19:18 | Updated: 17 January 2024, 19:28

Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill is set to pass comfortably
Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill is set to pass comfortably. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

The government's Rwanda bill is set to pass its third reading "comfortably", with dozens of MPs who rebelled on Tuesday's amendment votes expected to fall in line behind the government.

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LBC's Natasha Clark told Andrew Marr that the 60 Conservatives who voted in favour of amendments toughening up the bill on Tuesday were concerned that voting the full legislation down could topple Rishi Sunak's government.

She said: "It appears that the rebellion is now melting away. Most of the Conservative MPs... expect the bill to now pass comfortably, and for most MPs to back it at third reading later today."

Natasha said that no more than ten or 15 Conservative MPs on the right of the party were still expected to vote against the bill. Those include Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates, leaders of the New Conservatives grouping of MPs who were elected since 2016.

LBC's political editor said that the rebellions on Tuesday's amendments represented a "really, really strong show of feeling". She added that "when push comes to shove, a lot of them today have just been telling me: 'Look, it's better to vote for this than nothing. It's the toughest stuff we've got so far.'"

Sir Robert Buckland, the former Justice Secretary on the left of the Conservative party, told Andrew ahead of the vote that "in politics, you can't necessarily have everything of what you want.

"And my advice to colleagues and friends on the other side of the argument is, remember that what they're doing isn't achievable. Certainly, they haven't got the votes for it. And they are probably better off settling for what the government has proposed."

Read more: Rishi Sunak pleads for Conservatives to 'come together' ahead of Rwanda reckoning after 60 Tory MPs turn on PM

Read more: Rwanda's president says there are 'limits for how long this can drag on' as Sunak faces rebellion over deportations

LBC's political editor Natasha Clark says the Rwanda bill is expected to 'pass comfortably'

The Rwanda bill would stop British courts from blocking flights sending illegal arrivals to East Africa, after a previous version of the plan was stopped by the Supreme Court last year.

The government had feared that Tory rebels, who want it toughened up so the European Court of Human Rights can't intervene, could join forces with opposition parties to block the bill.

If the Conservative rebels who voted for the amendments on Tuesday also voted against the bill on Wednesday, it would fail, given that Labour and the other opposition parties will vote against it.

The PM insists the bill is robust enough to get flights off the ground. Nobody has been sent to East Africa as part of the plan yet.

MPs voted on amendments on Tuesday and Wednesday. An amendment proposed by Robert Jenrick on Wednesday that aimed to block last-minute interventions from European judges was voted down by 536 votes to 65, giving the government a majority of 471.

Rishi Sunak on Wednesday
Rishi Sunak on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

Even if Mr Sunak gets the bill through the Commons, it could be held up for months by the House of Lords.

Some in the Conservative party had raised fears that if the Rwanda bill failed it could spell the end for Rishi Sunak's government.

And a Tory MP has told his colleagues they should "go and look for new jobs" if the bill were to be voted down.

Bob Seely, who represents the Isle of Wight, said: "We kill the bill tonight, we can all go and look for new jobs, so that is what we are facing."

Mr Seely told MPs that colleagues who believed a new bill could be written up were living in "la la land".

Migrants arriving from the Channel on Wednesday
Migrants arriving from the Channel on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

He said: "On the WhatsApp group that we were chatting on about this earlier, one of our colleagues from the north east posted the idea that we could have a new bill, that a new bill would be written.

"I'm finding that to be truly living in la la land, because the idea that everybody on this side of the house would agree to a new bill, once we've killed this bill, is for the birds.

"It's this bill or no bill, it's this bill or no chance - so I think we have to face the reality."

Ex-Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says there's a 'limit to how much Rwanda can tolerate'

It comes after Mr Sunak endured the biggest rebellion of his 15-month premiership on Tuesday as dozens of Tory MPs backed two amendments designed to toughen up the Rwanda scheme in the Commons - against the government's wishes.

The resignations of deputy chairmen Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith, as well as Jane Stevenson, a parliamentary private secretary to Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, piled more pressure on Mr Sunak.

A total of 68 MPs - including 58 Conservatives - voted for an amendment to "disapply" international law to the scheme during Tuesday's vote - a bid to circumvent the European Court of Human Rights holding up deportation flights to Rwanda.

Then, ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick's amendment to restrict individuals' abilities to make claims against deportation was defeated but 58 MPs voted for it.