Blow for Sunak’s Rwanda legislation from legal assessment for Tory right
Labour accused the Prime Minister of ‘begging for our votes’.
Rishi Sunak has been dealt the fresh blow of a legal assessment for the Tory right concluding his Rwanda legislation is not fit for purpose, as the Prime Minister urged Labour not to oppose his plans.
Sir Bill Cash, who has chaired a legal examination being waited on by many in the party, has signalled that the Bill is not “sufficiently watertight” despite Mr Sunak hoping it will revive his flagship asylum plan.
Battling to keep his own Tory MPs on side, the Prime Minister urged Sir Keir Starmer to “rise above political games” and “act in the national interest” by supporting the emergency Bill.
But Conservatives from both the right and the left of the party are considering whether to oppose it in a crunch vote on Tuesday, with neither camp totally satisfied by the offering.
Labour will whip to vote against the Bill, meaning a rebellion by just 28 Tories could deliver a humiliating defeat for the Government.
Sir Keir’s party accused the Tories of “begging for our votes” to pass the legislation to help revive their £290 million Rwanda “gimmick”.
Sir Bill has chaired a so-called “star chamber” of lawyers carrying out an examination for the European Research Group of Tory MPs, but others on the right in the New Conservatives and the Common Sense groups are also awaiting the findings, expected on Monday.
The veteran Tory wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that they had been considering whether the “wording is sufficiently watertight to meet the Government’s policy objectives”.
“At present it does not,” he said. “Our report, I hope, will be helpful to the Government in deciding whether the Bill in its current form is fit for purpose or will require further amendment, even by the Government itself.”
Meanwhile, sacked home secretary Suella Braverman questioned Mr Sunak’s “rather strange claim” that going further on the Bill would have caused the £290 million deal with Rwanda to “collapse”.
She told the Sunday Telegraph: “I’ve been to Rwanda several times and I have spoken to the Rwandan government a lot. It never once raised any kind of concerns like this.”
Mrs Braverman echoed Robert Jenrick, who quit as immigration minister over the legislation, by raising concerns that it leaves ignoring temporary Rule 39 injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights which blocked last year’s flight to the Government.
“I know that our Attorney General has advised that to ignore a Rule 39 injunction would be a breach of international law, so therefore as it stands Rule 39s will block flights,” Mrs Braverman told the newspaper.
The Labour leader is also stepping up his attacks and will use a speech to accuse the Tories of being unable to govern while their warring factions are “fighting like rats in a sack”.
But Mr Sunak insisted he will take a “significant step” towards his promise to the voters that he will “stop the boats”, which he said the public cares deeply about.
He argued in a statement that the Opposition is “not fit to govern”, adding: “This week, Labour needs for once to rise above political games.
“They need for once to stop acting in their short-term interests. They need to act in the national interest.”
Labour argued that Mr Sunak is trying to shift the focus onto the Opposition was a desperate move.
“That the Prime Minister is begging for our votes proves his tired, chaotic Government cannot deliver for our country,” a party spokesman said.
Mr Sunak’s efforts to prevent his divided MPs rebelling on the legislation hit another snag when it was revealed that a legal assessment has been given it only a “50% at best” chance of success of getting removal flights off to Rwanda.
More moderate Tories from the One Nation group are concerned about telling courts they must find that the East African nation is “safe”.
While some on the right want to go further in disapplying the European Convention on Human Rights.
Would-be rebels from across the spectrum, however, may wait until a later stage to seek to amend Mr Sunak’s plans rather than deliver him a humiliating defeat this week.
Sir Keir will use a speech on the same day as the vote to argue that the Tories are “all swanning around self-importantly, in their factions”.
He is expected to say that while they are “fighting like rats in a sack” there is a “country out here that isn’t being governed”.