Unelected House of Lords plot to block the Rwanda law

Unelected House of Lords plot to block the Rwanda law that could end scenes of migrants risking their lives in flimsy boats to reach the UK

  • Peers have vowed to block Rishi Sunak in his efforts to tackle the crisis  

Braced against the cold and packed into two flimsy dinghies, they risk being swamped by the waters of the English Channel.

But the migrants press on, heading for the British coast – and the new life that beckons.

The pictures pile shame on members of the House of Lords, who today vowed to block Rishi Sunak in his efforts to tackle the crisis head-on by reviving the stalled Rwanda flights plan. 

Before they had even seen it, senior peers said they would vote down the emergency legislation promised by the Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak wants to declare the east African country a safe destination for asylum seekers and so assuage concerns set out in this week’s highly damaging Supreme Court verdict.

A stalemate now looms, with the legislation going back and forth between the Commons, where the Government has a majority, and the Lords, where it does not. 

Members of the unelected House of Lords have vowed to block Rishi Sunak in his efforts to tackle the crisis head-on by reviving the stalled Rwanda flights plan

A group of migrants are pictured on a dinghy crossing the English Channel in rough conditions today

The threat of a stand-off until the next election casts a dark cloud over Mr Sunak’s Plan B and his hopes that it can come into force in the spring.

The rationale for a deterrent to ‘stop the boats’ was on stark display today when a Mail photographer captured dozens more migrants making the perilous crossing.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory former minister, said: ‘If the unelected parts of the constitution thwart the will of the British people, that creates a problem.

READ MORE: And still the boats come… Moment dinghy filled with migrants almost disappears beneath the waves before being escorted into British waters by French boats – as Tories warn Rishi he ‘can’t afford to fail’ in his bid to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

‘Dealing with migration was a manifesto commitment which the Lords must remember. Their role is to scrutinise legislation, not to oppose fundamental policy.’

Fellow Conservative MP Sir Simon Clarke added: ‘Clearly it’s for members of the unelected upper house to choose whether they wish to stand in the way of elected politicians trying to address what is an unacceptable situation. But I think there will be fury if they block this.

‘Is it unconstitutional for us to say we think Rwanda is safe? At some point we have to ask who governs this country, elected politicians or judges.’

A former minister who held talks with Mr Sunak said the PM was ‘very worried’ about the risk of the legislation getting bogged down in the upper house.

The source added: ‘I don’t think anything worthwhile will get through the Lords in the time we have left so we should just put forward what is needed, dare them to block it and call an election if they do. Stopping the boats is existential for us – we have to do whatever it takes.’

New Home Secretary James Cleverly said today the Government had been working with Rwanda for more than a year to ‘beef up’ its institutions, paving the way for a ‘robust’ treaty within days.

This deal, which will be backed up by the emergency legislation, is intended to answer concerns raised by the Supreme Court that migrants sent to Africa are at risk of being returned to their home countries, where they may be tortured. 

New Home Secretary James Cleverly said the Government had been working with Rwanda for more than a year to ‘beef up’ its institutions

Migrants are escorted by a French vessel into English waters 

French ship Apollo Moon sails alongside migrants on a dinghy in the choppy English Channel waters  

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory former minister, said ‘if the unelected parts of the constitution thwart the will of the British people, that creates a problem’ 

But ex-terror watchdog and crossbencher Lord Carlile of Berriew – whose amendment to the last illegal migration law led to a Government defeat in June – said: ‘I am shocked to hear the Government seems to be suggesting it will seek to overcome the Supreme Court decision by introducing a bill which simply declares Rwanda a safe country.

What is the PM’s plan for finally getting Rwanda flights going? 

1. Ratify a new Treaty with Rwanda that will guarantee asylum seekers sent there from the UK are not returned to danger in their country of origin.

2. Parliament passes ’emergency legislation’ formally designating Rwanda as a safe country.

3. If ‘foreign courts’ are still posing a problem the government is ready to ignore, water down or force reforms to the European Convention on Human Rights and UN Refugee Convention.

4. Flights carrying asylum seekers should start taking off by the Spring, although the PM refused to guarantee that timetable.  

‘I have absolutely no doubt the House of Lords would put up pretty strong cross-party opposition to the bill that has been mooted.’

Although the little-used Parliament Act gives governments the power to stop the Lords vetoing a bill, he said, by convention it is used only to ensure manifesto commitments can be delivered – which would not be the case for the new Rwanda plan.

‘The Government cannot force it through under the Parliament Act because it’s not that kind of bill – to be able to be forced through it has to be a manifesto bill,’ the peer added. 

‘There are enough members of the House of Lords willing to object to this to mean the Government would be most unlikely to get it through.’

Lord Carlile suggested that the Government should instead have found a safe country as a back-up instead of Rwanda, and focus on tackling the backlog of asylum claims and tribunal cases.

Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti, who led opposition in the Lords to previous Rwanda legislation, said she had grave reservations about the Government’s plan.

The former director of the human rights group Liberty said: ‘I cannot see what they can do with emergency legislation that would not be a two fingers to our Supreme Court and take us out of our international obligations at a time when Putin and others have put these international conventions under threat.’ 

A Labour source said the party was ‘almost certain’ to oppose the legislation in the upper house. ‘The problem is not the courts, it’s the facts,’ the source said.

‘The Supreme Court found that Rwanda is not safe. You cannot get rid of that with a draughtsman’s pen and you should not try.’

The Government’s previous attempt to tackle illegal migration was attacked in the Lords with the Archbishop of Canterbury among the most vocal critics.

And today Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker, said: ‘It is incumbent upon me as a citizen of this land to treat matters that the Supreme Court of this land has judged as fact to be fact.’

Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption described the Government’s plan of a law to declare Rwanda as safe as ‘constitutionally really quite extraordinary’, accusing No 10 of ‘trying to change the facts by law’. 

‘For as long as black isn’t white, the business of passing acts of parliament to say it is, is profoundly discreditable,’ he said.

Dozens more migrants arrived at Dover today following 615 arrivals in 12 boats on Sunday.

However the total making the journey since January – about 27,300 – remains a third less than at the same point last year.

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