Sunak braced for Rwanda debate in Lords as critics line up to speak

Sunak braced for Rwanda debate in Lords as critics line up to speak thumbnail

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made ‘stopping the boat’ one of the key pledges of his leadership (PA)

PA Wire

Rishi Sunak is braced for further battle in the Lords over his Bill to revive the Government’s Rwanda scheme as the legislation faces scrutiny from a number of prominent critics.

Some 71 members of the upper chamber are expected to speak at the second reading debate of the draft law on Monday.

Among them is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has voiced profound concerns about the plan to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Kigali.

Lord Carlile of Berriew, who earlier this month warned the Government is moving towards “totalitarianism” in its handling of the policy, is also due to appear.

The crossbench peer has suggested the Lords would seek to undo what he described as politicians “meddling” in the independent courts.

Mr Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda Bill survived third reading in the Commons after the Prime Minister saw off a Tory rebellion which had sought to toughen the legislation.

MPs on the right of the party largely backed down following speculation that the draft law could be torpedoed unless amendments were made, including to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to block a person’s removal to Rwanda.

In the end just 11 Conservatives voted against the legislation but it faces a bigger test in the Lords, where many members have expressed unease about the plan.

The PM has urged peers against blocking “the will of the people” by opposing the Bill as he faces an election year having made “stopping the boats” a key pledge of his leadership.

But first blood was drawn in the Lords last week, when peers backed by 214 votes to 171 an unprecedented move seeking to delay a treaty with the east African nation which forms part of the Government’s plan.

The unelected second chamber backed calls for Parliament to not approve the pact until ministers can show the country is safe – though unlike the Commons, which has the power to delay ratification of a treaty, the Lords can only advise.

The asylum scheme comes with a £290 million bill but a series of legal challenges has meant no flights have taken off since it was first proposed in 2022, when Boris Johnson was in Number 10.

Under the plan, people who cross the Channel in small boats could be removed to Rwanda rather than being allowed to seek asylum in the UK.

The legislation, along with the recently signed treaty with Kigali, is aimed at ensuring the scheme is legally watertight after the Supreme Court ruling against it last year.