Robert Jenrick ‘prepared’ to vote down Rwanda bill as Tory divide deepens | Politics News
Robert Jenrick says he is “prepared” to vote against the Rwanda bill if the government does not adopt “robust” changes to the proposed legislation.
The proposed law is heading back to the Commons for two days of debate this afternoon, with the aim of deterring asylum seekers from coming to the UK via small boat crossings.
Rishi Sunak has said the new bill, which includes clauses to define Rwanda as a “safe country” and reduces the ability for people to appeal, answers the concerns of the the UK Supreme Court – which ruled the plan unlawful – while also ensuring deportations will take place.
But many on the right of the party – including Mr Jenrick, who resigned as immigration minister over the issue – want the prime minister to toughen up the legislation with a raft of amendments, including one that would block injunctions on flights taking off.
Make this move, however, and Mr Sunak risks upsetting the centrist wing of his party, with the One Nation faction already concerned the bill goes too far from the UK’s international obligations.
Johnson tells PM to accept rebel amendments
Speaking to Sky News’s political editor Beth Rigby, Mr Jenrick said he did not want to get to the “situation” where he would have to rebel against the government, but added: “I am prepared to vote against the bill… because this bill doesn’t work, and I do believe that a better bill is possible.
“So the government has a choice. It can either accept my amendments… or it can bring back a new and improved bill, and it could do that within a matter of days because we know the shape of that bill.”
He added: “The opportunity here is immense. Let’s not waste it by creating a scheme that is like a bucket riddled with holes.”
Jenrick: ‘Tens of thousands more’ will come if bill not ‘fixed’
The former immigration minister said he “didn’t accept” that if the bill failed in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s premiership would be in crisis – despite two deputy Tory chairmen now risking the sack to vote for the rebel amendments.
“This isn’t about the prime minister or his leadership of the Conservative Party,” Mr Jenrick said. “This is about fixing one of the biggest problems facing not just this country, but countries all over the world.
“And as I’ve set out in great detail since I resigned on principle last month, if we don’t fix this problem, we’ll see tens of thousands more people coming to our country.
“I don’t want to see the bill either fail or proceed in its current state. Neither is a satisfactory outcome. But I do know that a better bill is possible and the ball is in the government’s court here.”
He added: “The point is that there’s no point having a moment of unity in passing a bill that doesn’t work – that’s an illusion.
“What matters is whether it works. And if we’re celebrating this week, but in August there are still thousands of people coming across in small boats, no one will remember the events of this week.”
Govt ‘risks clogging up the courts’
Sky News understands the government still doesn’t plan to accept any of the amendments from right-wing MPs.
However, shortly before the debate was set to begin – and in an attempt to appease rebels – Justice Secretary Alex Chalk confirmed 25 hearing rooms had been prepared and more than 100 additional staff had been recruited to help speed up appeals and deportations.
But Mr Jenrick said: “Adding more judges into the mix simply accepts my central argument that there will be an absolute cascade of individual claims from migrants as they arrive into the country and [that] will clog up the courts.
“It will delay things and the scheme will become completely inoperable.”
The former minister also rejected the government’s argument that any strengthening of the law would lead to the Rwandan government pulling out of the scheme altogether, rather than risk being linked with breaches of international law.
“It is quite an implausible suggestion from the government, which was raised at the 11th hour,” he said.
“I think it’s a highly convenient argument… you weren’t born yesterday, neither was I. I don’t think that is going to wash with parliamentary colleagues.”
Mr Jenrick continued: “All we care about is what works. It is absolutely critical for the country not to talk about the government, but to actually get the Rwanda scheme up and running.
“Illegal migration is doing untold damage to our country. I won’t allow that to continue.
“I said, as did the prime minister, that we would do whatever it takes. And the bill before parliament this week is not that.
“That is why we need to amend it, to toughen it and to ensure those flights do truly get off to Rwanda.”