‘Lecturing’ Rishi Sunak rebuked as House of Lords votes to delay Rwanda treaty

The House of Lords voted 214-171 last night in favour of delaying Rishi Sunak’s flagship UK-Rwanda immigration treaty.

The votes centred on delay motions from Labour peer Lord Goldsmith, who serves as chairman of the chamber’s International Agreements Committee. 

Lord Goldsmith’s committee previously presented a report identifying ten sets of issues where “significant additional legal and practical steps are needed in order to implement the protections the treaty is designed to provide.”

The motion is not binding on the government, but support for it in the Lords is suggestive of the battles to come for Rishi Sunak, as the Conservative Party navigates the Rwanda scheme through the House.

Speaking in the debate yesterday, Lord Goldsmith added: “We are not saying the treaty should never be ratified but we are saying that Parliament should have the opportunity to scrutinise the treaty and its implementing measures in full before it makes a judgement about Rwanda is safe.”

It comes after the prime minister framed the progress of his flagship Rwanda deportation plan as a battle between the “will of the people” and “unelected” peers in a press conference last week. 

“Will the opposition in the appointed House of Lords try and frustrate the will of the people as expressed by the elected house?”, the PM told the press conference. 

He added: “Or will they get on board and do the right thing? It’s as simple as that.”

Sunak delivered the press conference after he dodged a rebellion from the Conservative right, which saw the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill sent to the Lords with a majority of 44.

In a statement ahead of the vote, Labour peer Lord Coaker, who serves as a spokesperson for home affairs, accused the prime minister of “lecturing” and defended the upper chamber as acting in its “proper constitutional role”.

Lord Coaker said: “What we’ve seen today is not a House of Lords seeking to block, to act in an anti-democratic way, to actually do anything other than to do its job – which is to say to the government: where we believe that you should think again, where we believe that you might actually reflect on what you are doing”.

“That, as a revising chamber, as an advisory chamber, is absolutely what we should be doing. And nobody, least of all the prime minister, should hold press conferences, lecturing us about what our role is, when all we seek to do is to improve it, and to act in our proper constitutional role.”

After the vote, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage weighed in, saying: “We must sack all current members of the House of Lords”.

Lord Sharpe of Estom, a Home Office minister, said it was “critical to the Government’s plan to establish an effective deterrent to dangerous crossings, and to stop the boats”, before being laughed at by other peers as he began to recap “what this policy sets out to achieve”.

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