Hard Line Conservative Party MPs rebel against the UK Prime Minister’s Rwanda Bill, but buckle at last hurdle

Several days of consternation and fear that a planned major rebellion from right wing rebels of the Tory Party, could end in the Prime Minister’s Asylum Bill failing to pass its final reading in parliament, proved unwarranted as it was on Wednesday evening eventually passed with a majority of 44.

The week’s debates in parliament saw heated exchanges and voting on Tuesday in respect of two proposed amendments, designed to toughen the Government’s Rwanda Bill and to provide sufficient assurances that the courts would be unable to derail attempts to deport ‘illegal asylum seekers’ to Rwanda.  On both accounts, the amendments failed to garner anything close to major support from parliamentary elected representatives. However, the level of support for the amendments, with as many as 68 Rebel Tory MPs voting in favour – some of whom were high profile, former cabinet ministers including Sir Ian Duncan Smith, was sufficient to trigger major concern that the Bill might not pass its final reading on Wednesday.  

Just 29 dissenters needed to defeat the bill

If the scale of the rebellion seen at Tuesday’s votes, followed through in the final vote on the Asylum and Immigration Bill on Wednesday, this will have seen one of the Prime Minister’s key policy strategies in tatters. In fact, the Prime Minister was clearly concerned that for the bill not to pass, it will only have required 29 of the rebels to vote against it and this will have been sufficient to remove the government’s prevailing majority in the House of Commons.

Most political pundits remained confident that the Tory dissidents, would eventually buckle under pressure before the hour of voting arrived, despite fears that their resolve is likely to have been strengthened by the resignation on Tuesday of the right wing of the party’s most celebrated champions – the Deputy Chairs of the Conservative Party, Brendan Clarke-Smith and Lee Anderson MP. Dissenters will have also taken some inspiration from the voice of the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who urged his parliamentary colleagues to support actions to toughen the bill. Johnson said:

‘Governments around the world are now trying to imitate the UK Rwanda policy for tackling illegal people-trafficking…This Bill must be as legally robust as possible — and the right course is to adopt the amendments’

The collection of dissenting voices will no doubt have served to cause the Prime Minister to spend a few nerve-wracking days considering how best to pacify the right of the party without alienating the majority, most of whom were clear that they were not prepared to place themselves on the wrong side of international law. Crucially, they will have been aware of the words of the Rwandan President Kagame who had publicly stated that ‘Rwandans will not comply with injustice.’

Tory party whips have spent the last two days working to stave off a possible rebellion in Wednesday’s vote and it would seem that some assurances including the promise to deploy more judges to expedite deportee appeal hearings, have managed to pacify significant numbers of the rebels, sufficient to ensure the bill passed in its third reading.  

Notwithstanding this, the Law Societies in Scotland and in England and Wales, openly expressed their concerns about the likely legal ramifications of the UK Government’s ‘Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration Bill)’.

Concern that the Bill could ‘undermine the independence of our judiciary’

Sheila Webster, the Law Society of Scotland President said:

‘We’re very concerned about this bill, and particularly sections that would undermine the independence of our judiciary, along with the UK’s commitment to human rights and international law. Our international reputation is in jeopardy…The UK must comply with its international obligations or be in breach of the rule of law. Judicial independence from executive government is a fundamental part of our democracy. That separation of powers is contradicted by the bill’s proposal for the Government rather than courts to decide whether to comply with interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights.’

A You Gov Poll published on the weekend, which polled 14,000 people, indicated that the Conservative Party faces a likely 1997 style election wipeout, with the prospect that their current 365 seats will be reduced to as few as 169 – a loss of nearly 200 MPs, putting the Labour Party in power with 385 seats. This will have helped to persuade many of the rebels that a failure to support the Prime Minister’s bill on this occasion, could lead to a collapse of the government and a devastating early election.  

It is fair to say that the Prime Minister will on Wednesday night, have been relieved that his bill has passed with a comfortable 44 majority – 320 in favour and 276 against. The Bill now passes to the House of Lords for consideration and review and there may yet be more fireworks to come.

Scotland’s First Minister denounces the Rwanda Bill as repugnant

Scotland’s First Minister denounces the Rwanda Bill as repugnant

Meanwhile, Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has gone public in denouncing the Bill and has published on online video in which he pulls no punches attacking the UK government. He said:

‘The Rwanda Bill is the most repugnant piece of legislation to be passed by the House of Commons in recent history. It’s a further demonstration that Westminster’s values are not Scotland’s values. And that’s why I am very proud of my SNP MP colleagues for voting against it. Though evry single Scottish Tory MP that voted for the Rwanda Bill should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. In Scotland, we have a very proud history of welcoming refugees to Scotland. Those who are fleeing war, fleeing persecution. And let us together say with one voice that this legislation is not in Scotland’s name’


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