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Rishi Sunak’s path to Rwanda plan success just got harder – again – after symbolic Lords defeat | Politics News

If anyone doubted the strength of opposition to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda policy in the House of Lords, there shouldn’t be any doubt now.

Peers voted by a pretty hefty majority of 43 – 214 votes to 171 – for a motion to delay ratification of the government’s Rwanda treaty until safeguards have been implemented.

An unusual move? Certainly. House of Lords veterans believe it’s the first and only time the Lords have voted against ratifying an international treaty. Shows how cross they are!

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The motion was proposed by Lord Peter Goldsmith. Remember him? He was Tony Blair’s attorney general from 2001 until 2007, a period that included his legal advice on the 2003 Iraq war.

There were cheers on the opposition benches in the Lords when Labour‘s chief whip, the burly figure of Lord Roy Kennedy, read out the result of the vote with barely concealed glee.

But the big significance of this government defeat is that it spells trouble when peers start debating the Rwanda bill and then vote on amendments at the report stage in early March.

This was an ominous warning for the prime minister. It shows that a majority of their lordships don’t like the Rwanda policy one bit.

When the bill got its first reading last Thursday, there was laughter and a shout of “shame” from one peer.

This debate, lasting nearly four hours, was mostly polite and good-tempered, as Lords debates usually are. But it all got a bit heated and tetchy at the end as tempers frayed and insults were hurled across the chamber.

Labour’s spokesman Lord Vernon Coaker, a former MP who was a minister under Gordon Brown, bitterly attacked Mr Sunak for his news conference last Thursday when he urged the Lords to “accept the will of the people”.

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Sunak warns Lords over Rwanda Bill

That prompted Lord Andrew Sharpe of Epsom, a Tory businessman ennobled by Boris Johnson in 2020, to accuse Labour of attempting to wreck the Rwanda bill, even though this vote was on the treaty, not the bill.

A furious Lord Goldsmith then rose and said he resented that claim. It was, he said, a debate on the report of the all-party International Agreements Committee, which he chairs, and the report had been unanimous.

Ironically, the majority against the government, 43, was virtually identical to the government majority of 43 at the Rwanda bill’s second reading in December and its third reading last week.

Ultimately, the government will get the Rwanda bill through the Lords, after parliamentary “ping pong” between the Lords and the Commons, no doubt.

But this vote suggests that the Lords have the ability to frustrate and delay its progress.

So did the prime minister’s “will of the people” news conference last Thursday backfire? Almost certainly.

Judging by Lord Coaker’s criticism, it appears to have antagonised peers and hardened their opposition to the Rwanda policy.

Will the government simply ignore the call for safeguards? Possibly, although the immediate reaction was that ministers would respond with a statement to address the issues raised.

Downing Street is still insisting that flights to Rwanda will take off “in the spring”. That’s pretty vague.

And this Lords defeat, even if it’s only symbolic, has made the government’s task harder. Again.

Brecon Beacons National Park: Tories criticise renaming as ‘symbolic’ attempt to look ‘trendy’ | UK News

A rebranding move to drop the name Brecon Beacons in favour of its Welsh counterpart has been criticised by senior Conservatives who suggested the money could have been better used to encourage tourism.

They also called it a symbolic attempt to look “trendy” which could undermine the region’s international identity.

The picturesque and rugged national park will now be known as Bannau Brycheiniog to reflect its Welsh language roots and remove any association with carbon emissions.

As part of the overhaul, there will be a new green and white logo to replace a brightly burning beacon.

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Can you pronounce the new Brecon Beacons name?

The park’s management admitted any connection with a wood-burning, carbon-emitting blazing beacon was “not a good look” for the Brecon Beacons, which covers around 520 square miles (1,350 sq km) of mountainous South and mid Wales.

And it said there was no evidence that beacons, which were once lit on peaks or coastlines to warn of an imminent attack, had ever been used in the area – so the Welsh name better reflected its heritage.

Brecon Beacons
Brecon Beacons

Bannau Brycheiniog translates in English as “peaks of Brychan’s kingdom” – a reference to the king who ruled that area during the fifth century.

But the renaming has been criticised by Tories including Welsh Secretary David TC Davies who said: “What concerns me is the fact there was no consultation and people who live and work in the national park were not given the opportunity to voice their opinion.

“It would be somewhat alarming if this was an entirely executive decision.

“The Brecon Beacons has a long-standing international identity and that is the name it will always be known by to so many around the world. I do question the cost and feel this is money that could have been used to encourage tourism in a better way.

“As a bilingual country, I fail to understand why the Welsh name cannot be used alongside the English name.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies. Pic: UK parliament
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies. Pic: UK parliament

‘Jumping on a sustainability bandwagon for PR purposes’

Brecon and Radnorshire’s Tory MP Fay Jones questioned the cost and impact of the “symbolic” rebrand and demanded to know why local people were not consulted.

“I’m amazed that a change of name should be imposed on those who live and work in the national park without any consultation,” she said.

“I am worried that this is symbolic. This is about looking trendy and jumping on a sustainability bandwagon for PR purposes.”

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said: “The Beacons are as recognisable outside of Wales as they are here. Why undermine that?”

However, Welsh actor Michael Sheen said he welcomed the “reclamation of the old Welsh name – an old name for a new way of being”, and he has filmed a promotional video to celebrate the name change.

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Catherine Mealing-Jones, chief executive of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Pic: Bannau Brycheiniog
Catherine Mealing-Jones, chief executive of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Pic: Bannau Brycheiniog

‘Providing leadership on decarbonisation’

Also, the park authority’s chief executive, Catherine Mealing-Jones, said: “Given that we’re trying to provide leadership on decarbonisation, a giant burning brazier is not a good look.

“Our park is shaped by Welsh people, Welsh culture, and as we looked into it we realised the brand we’ve got and the name we’ve got, it’s a bit of a nonsense, it doesn’t really make any sense – the translation Brecon Beacons doesn’t really mean anything in Welsh.

“We’d always had the name Bannau Brycheiniog as the Welsh translation and we just felt we needed to put that front and centre as an expression about the new way we wanted to be celebrating Welsh people, Welsh culture, Welsh food, Welsh farming – all of the things that need to come with us as we go through this change in the management plan.”