‘We will get it through’: Illegal migration minister bullish ahead of crunch Rwanda Bill vote

Rishi Sunak was dealt a significant blow to his authority yesterday as 60 Conservative MPs voted in favour of changes to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Overall, 68 MPs voted for the amendment put forward by Conservative backbencher Sir Bill Cash, seeking to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to block a person being removed to Rwanda.

The amendment was ultimately rejected by a majority of 461.

The Rwanda Bill returns to the commons today to continue its committee stage ahead of its third reading — with only 29 Conservative rebels needed to sink the bill. 

Speaking to Sky News this morning, illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson confirmed the bill’s committee stage will continue today, despite speculation No 10 could pull the vote amid the looming threat of a rebellion. 

Beyond the Rwanda Bill: The Conservative Party faces a bitter, protracted reckoning

Reflecting on yesterday’s committee stage, Tomlinson said there were six hours of “detailed debate and constructive, robust exchanges on all sides” yesterday.

When it was put to the illegal migration minister that it would take 29 Conservative rebels to sink the Rwanda Bill in a move that could collapse the government, Tomlinson replied: “No, I think we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.”

He insisted there is a “unity of purpose” in the Conservative party in stopping the small boat crossings and passing the legislation.

“We will get it through”, he added.

‘We want the Rwanda Bill to work’ — Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith’s resignation letter in full

The government’s plan to appease rebels involves appointing 150 more judges to hear immigration cases in order to rapidly process appeals against deportation. Announcing the move yesterday, the justice secretary said it will add an additional 5,000 sitting days to process cases.

Tomlinson argued this morning that such measures show “the determination of the prime minister to ensure that this legislation works”.

It comes as former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Rishi Sunak to accept Conservative rebel demands today in a move, he argued, that would see the party avoid a general election “wipeout”.

Simon Clarke confirms he will vote against unamended Rwanda Bill as it is ‘likely to fail’

Rees-Mogg voted for the rebel amendments to the bill yesterday. 

He said the government needed to show that it “listens to and shares the concerns of the British people” on the issue of stopping the boats.

He told GB News: “If the Tory Party followed the rebels, it would begin to restore its popularity by being Conservative. If the Prime Minister gets this Bill right and we see flights taking off before the next election, we could just possibly see a revival of Tory support that could prevent the predicted election wipeout.

“It would show a government that listens to and shares the concerns of the British people. Particularly on this issue, because I do feel that the politicians are so out of touch with the British electorate.”

Meanwhile, Conservative MP and rebel Jonathan Gullis has said flights to Rwanda must take off regularly or the public will view the scheme as nothing more than a “gimmick”.

The New Conservatives rebel told LBC Radio this morning: “Everyone agrees in the Conservative Party that we must get Rwanda done because it will be a good deterrent factor for people who choose to put thousands of pounds in the hands of smuggling gangs.

“What we need to do is have it as a sustainable deterrent. That means having regular flights with lots of people on board, otherwise people will just see it as a gimmick, the voters will see it as a gimmick.

“We will have tried a third piece of legislation in three years and, if it fails, it will be three strikes and you’re out.”

Every rebel Conservative MP who voted to amend Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill