Rishi Sunak threatens war with Lords over plot to block illegal migrant bill
Ministers are planning a summer “showdown” with unelected peers trying to block tough new laws to stop small boats.
The Government will force all-night votes until the House of Lords backs down over the deportation legislation it wants to water down.
Judges will rule whether the plan to send migrants entering the UK illegally to Rwanda is legal.
If the judgment goes in the Government’s favour, the first flights could take off as early as September.
But legislation allowing quick deportations of anyone entering the country is facing intense opposition in the upper chamber which the Government has pledged to fight. “We will not be doing this the polite way,” a source said.
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“There will be a showdown in the week before the summer recess. This is about showing the Lords they cannot go against the elected government.”
Peers have inflicted a fresh series of defeats on the Government over its Illegal Migration Bill.
Ministers are considering making some minor tweaks to the legislation to allow pregnant migrants to remain in the UK, but only until they have given birth.
Changes are also being considered to allow “genuine” children to be exempt from certain processes, but there will be rigorous checks to stop “grown men” from posing as teenagers.
James Daly, a member of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “This is exactly the right thing to do. Unelected peers want to water down this Bill so much that it becomes meaningless.
“But they haven’t got a clue about the public’s concerns about migrants entering this country illegally and they don’t seem to care either.
“Their hand-wringing is delaying new laws drawn up by the elected government. It is time they stopped frustrating the will of the people.”
Conservative MP Mark Eastwood said: “It’s clear that people want the government to take action on illegal crossings, but Labour has consistently stood in the way of any action we’re taking to stop foreign criminal gangs putting people at risk in small boats.
“People living near the hotels housing asylum seekers are telling me that they know stopping the boats is the only way to get control of this situation, but Labour isn’t listening and instead are playing political games in an attempt to thwart this bill.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been one of the most vocal critics in the Lords of the Bill, condemning it as “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”.
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Home Office minister Lord Murray accused peers of trying to derail the legislation last night as they inflicted a series of defeats on the government.
He accused them of passing a “wrecking amendment” that would make it unworkable.
All the changes peers have made will go back to the Commons, where MPs are expected to overturn them.
They will then go back to the Lords in repeated rounds of parliamentary “ping pong” until the bill passes.
But the usual “polite” round of back and forth between the chambers, where a day or two is given between the votes, will be dropped in favour of late-night sittings until a resolution is reached.
The government is hoping that Tory MPs who have voiced concerns about the plans, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, will stay away from the votes rather than back the peers’ amendments.
Mrs May is against measures in the bill that go against laws she introduced to tackle modern slavery.
But insiders said the protections were being exploited by migrants when they had run out of other options.
An agreement with Albania to allow its citizens applying for asylum in Britain claiming to be trafficking victims has seen a dramatic reduction in numbers with 90 per cent fewer arrivals.
But the Government fears that other nationalities will use the tactic as they deal with a constant “whack-a-mole” situation of resolving one issue only for another to pop up.
The government is hopeful that the Rwanda judgment will go its way.
Cabinet Minister Mel Stride defended the cost of the scheme after a Home Office report on Monday claimed the Illegal Migration Bill could cost £169,000 per person.
It said a deterrence rate of 37 percent would be needed for the policy to break even.
Mr Stride defended the policy, insisting the “numbers that are coming to our country and not going through the appropriate channels” is a problem.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said the Government was trying to make it “less attractive” for people crossing the channel on small boats.
Mr Stride said he hoped the scheme would allow people to be sent back to their country “if they’ve come here for the wrong reasons.”
He said if the Rwanda deportation plan was as successful as the Albanian returns agreement it would be “money well spent”.
Among the changes voted through by peers last night to the Bill were measures to stop the government from back-dating the deportation crackdown to March 7 when the legislation was introduced in the Commons.
Baroness Chakrabarti was behind an amendment that would force the UK to abide by several international conventions.
The Labour former shadow attorney general said it was aimed at protecting the “most vulnerable of people”, as well as the UK’s “reputation as a great democracy in a troubled world”.
She added the changes would “require British officials, ministers or indeed His Majesty’s judges to breach precious international treaties that our former statesmen and women played such a heroic part in creating”.
Law Society president Lubna Shuja said the Bill is “a defective and dangerous piece of legislation that threatens to undermine the rule of law and access to justice”, adding that it is “likely to be unworkable”.
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