RISHI Sunak has tonight WON a crunch vote on his Rwanda plan after seeing off a Tory revolt.
The PM successfully rammed his flagship migration legislation past its final Commons hurdle by 320 votes to 276 despite a handful of rightwing rebels in open defiance.
He now faces a fresh fight with peers already threatening to rip apart the deportation scheme in the House of Lords.
Rishi will address the nation at a press conference tomorrow morning and urge the House of Lords not to meddle with the bill, which was tonight backed by MPs.
After a week of Tory hardliners demanding the Bill be toughened up to head off relentless migrant legal challenges, Mr Sunak’s gamble that most would fall into line paid off.
He emerged with a majority of 44 tonight having made few concessions to the rebels – except for pledges to defy European judges and civil servants.
A 60-strong revolt of Conservative backbenchers on Tuesday night melted away for this evening’s make-or-break vote on the landmark Rwanda plan.
Eleven Tory MPs including ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman and ex-Home Office Minister Robert Jenrick voted against the bill despite the government’s Rwanda bill passing.
Which Tory MPs voted against the Bill?
- Suella Braverman
- William Cash
- Miriam Cates
- Simon Clarke
- Sarah Dines
- James Duddridge
- Mark Francois
- Andrea Jenkyns
- Robert Jenrick
- David Jones
- Danny Kruger
A rebel source said the group were still furious with the government for ignoring their pleas to strengthen the Rwanda plan.
They vowed to oppose any attempt by the Lords to weaken the Bill even further.
Earlier Downing Street had appealed to wavering MPs to back the PM or face the entire plan being blown up.
Mr Sunak’s press secretary said: “We are unified in our position in wanting to stop the boats, so we encourage them all to get behind this Bill so we can get this deterrent up and running as quickly as possible.”
While standing firm on the initial Bill, No10 did seek to placate rebels’ fears that civil servants could block ministers from overruling European judges.
Rightwing MPs have demanded any attempt by the Strasbourg Court to ground removal flights – like the first planned one in 2022 – be automatically ignored by British ministers.
Fresh guidance issued to civil servants today stressed that it “is for a Minister of the Crown, and only a Minister of the Crown, to decide whether the United Kingdom will comply”.
At his weekly PMQs clash, Mr Sunak vowed he would “get a grip” of the small boats crisis – on a day more migrants crossed the Channel.
He said: “I have absolute conviction that the plan we’ve put in place will work because I believe it is important that we grip this problem.”
Taking aim at the “Rwanda gimmick”, Sir Keir Starmer hit back that Tory infighting was like “hundreds of bald men scrapping over a single broken comb”.
The Rwanda Bill – which seeks to salvage the scheme following the Supreme Court defeat by declaring the East African country as “safe” – will now move to the Lords.
Mr Sunak still hopes to get the first deportation flights off the ground in the spring.
What does the win mean for Rishi?
RISHI Sunak has seen off a dangerous Tory rebellion over his Rwanda bill.
The bill is meant to block legal challenges to the PM’s plan to send asylum seekers to the east African country.
Hardline Tory MPs rallied against the bill, which they thought was not tough enough.
More than 60 backbenchers defied the whip yesterday – only to cave in tonight when voting for the bill as a whole.
It seems they decided that blocking the bill risked bringing down Rishi just as the Tories languish 27 points behind Labour in an election year.
The bill will now go to the Lords, where the government does not have a majority.
Peers will probably try to change the bill over fears it breaks international law.
If they amend it, the bill will be returned to the Commons for approval by MPs.
Critics of the Rwanda plan say asylum seekers should be processed on dry land to stop them crossing the Channel in dangerous small boats.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the plan is ‘cruel, inhumane and unworkable’.
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf called the bill the ‘most repugnant piece of legislation in recent history’.
But right-wing Tory MPs have vowed to oppose any attempt by peers to water the bill down.
Meanwhile Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said he would return money to the UK if no migrants are sent to his country.
The UK has paid £240m to Kigali, with an extra £50m to come, but no asylum seeker has been sent to the East African nation.
Asked why he was taking the funds, Mr Kagame said: “It’s only going to be used if those people will come. If they don’t come, we can return the money.”
A spokeswoman for the Rwandan Government, Yolande Makolo, later clarified Rwanda has “no obligation” to return any of the funds but that if the UK requests a refund they would “consider” it.