Minister claims Rwanda Bill will pass House of Lords ‘fairly fast’, despite peers’ concerns

The Safety of Rwanda Bill should make it through the House of Lords “fairly fast”, a minister has claimed this morning after Rishi Sunak’s flagship legislation cleared its House of Commons stages last night.

Chris Philp, a Home Office minister, insisted the government would aim for deportation flights to start “as soon as possible”.

He added that it is “absolutely the intention” that such flights will be underway before the next general election.

It comes as MPs voted 320-276 yesterday evening — a majority of 44 — in favour of the government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill at its commons third reading stage.

How every MP voted on the Rwanda Bill

Only eleven Conservative MPs rebelled to vote down the legislation. That is despite 61 Conservatives backing former immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s Amendment 23 during the bill’s committee stage. 

The amendment sought to block last-minute injunctions from judges at the European Court of Human Rights

The Bill will now be sent to the Lords for further scrutiny.

Chris Philp told Times Radio this morning: “It is a pretty short Bill, it is only about five or six substantive clauses. To give you a sense of context, the Criminal Justice Bill that I am taking through Parliament… has about 80 clauses. So it is a pretty short Bill which means it should be able to get through the House of Lords fairly fast.”

But Philp’s claim comes after an influential House of Lords committee concluded that Rishi Sunak’s treaty declaring Rwanda is “safe” should not be ratified until parliamentarians are certain that the protections it aims to offer are in place.

In a report published yesterday, the International Agreements Committee said that ministers should provide parliament with more information to prove that the “legal and practical” steps needed to ensure Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers have been taken.

The report adds that the treaty “might in time provide the basis” to be able to declare Rwanda safe — but “as things stand the arrangements it provides for are incomplete”.

Under a parliamentary protocol known as the Salisbury convention, the House of Lords does not obstruct government manifesto commitments. However, this convention will not apply to the Rwanda deportation scheme, which did not feature in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto.

In this way, Alex Carlile, a prominent barrister and crossbench peer, has told Politico “there will be significant attempts to kill the bill completely”.

Declaring his support for such moves, he predicted the Lords’ customary deference to the commons could be “tested”.

Speaking this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Carlile added: “Many of the lawyers in the House of Lords will say this is a step too far. This is an illegitimate interference by politics with the law on an issue that can be solved in other ways.”

He added: “We’ve seen in various other countries, the damage that’s done when governments use perceived and often ill-judged political imperatives to place themselves above the courts. This is a step towards totalitarianism and an attitude that the United Kingdom usually deprecates.”

Beyond the Rwanda Bill: The Conservative Party faces a bitter, protracted reckoning is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.