Ex-immigration minister threatens to toughen Rwanda bill after leak suggests Sunak tried to scale back scheme

Ex-immigration minister threatens to toughen Rwanda bill after leak suggests Sunak tried to scale back scheme

Rishi Sunak faces a growing battle over his flagship Rwanda legislation after his former immigration minister threatened to lead a parliamentary revolt to try to toughen the bill.

Robert Jenrick warned that if the prime minister did not strengthen the new emergency laws then he would lay amendments next week to ensure they were “sufficiently robust”.

Mr Jenrick dramatically quit the government last month saying the Rwanda legislation would not work – just hours after former home secretary Suella Braverman told Mr Sunak he faced electoral “oblivion” over the issue.

Mr Jenrick revealed his plan to Sky News as Mr Sunak was accused of “conning” the public over the controversial Rwanda deal after leaked documents suggested he harboured significant doubts about the scheme – and argued for it to be scaled back – while he was chancellor.

Mr Sunak was unsure the plan to deport asylum seekers would achieve its ultimate goal, to deter channel crossings, a month before it was unveiled by then prime minster Boris Johnson.

He was concerned about the cost of sending asylum seekers to the African country and wanted to limit the numbers, according to the documents seen by the BBC

The prime minister faces a battle this month to get new emergency legislation through the Commons, after the Supreme Court ruled his Rwanda plan unlawful.

Losing the vote could imperil the future of the scheme and even Mr Sunak’s leadership, as Tory MPs pile pressure on him to fulfil his pledge to voters to stop the boat ahead of a looming general election.

Mr Sunak committed to keeping the Rwanda plan as he fought to win the leadership contest to replace Mr Johnson as Tory leader.

Asked about the leaked reports, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “I know the prime minister very well and I believe that he does see the urgent need to control our borders to get the Rwanda plan up and running – because that’s such a critical element to stopping the small boat crossings.

“But it is important that we get that right.

“And as I said last year, I don’t think that the bill that’s going through parliament is sufficient – if we say we’re going to do whatever it takes, we have to do whatever it takes and that means strengthening that bill. I hope that he will strengthen the bill that’s coming through parliament.”

Mr Jenrick added: “And I’ve been very clear that if he doesn’t do that, then I will lay amendments to the bill next week to make sure that it is the piece of legislation that is necessary that is sufficiently robust to do the job that the British public expect.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the papers show the Rwanda plan was a “total con” and “how incredibly weak Rishi Sunak is”.

“He knew costs were extortionate (and) resisted as chancellor. But he’s now so weak he’s writing £400m cheques to Rwanda for no one to be sent,” she said.

She accused the government of “continually going for gimmicks rather than ever getting a grip”.

When he was chancellor Mr Sunak wanted to reduce the numbers the scheme would send to Rwanda, from 1,500 in the first year to 500, and from 5,000 to 3,000 in the two years after that, according to the documents seen by the BBC.

He is also described as believing the “deterrent won’t work” and saying that he felt “hotels are cheaper” than reception centres to house migrants.

In a sign of the tactics used over the Rwanda policy, No 10 suggested Mr Sunak should be told to consider his “popularity with the base” if he was reluctant to sign up.

David Campbell Bannerman, the chair of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, questioned if Mr Sunak had sought to “sabotage” the Rwanda plan “right from the start”.

“These papers suggest Treasury undermined plan by cutting resources for it,” he tweeted.

A government source said that, as chancellor, Mr Sunak had funded the Rwanda scheme and then had gone on to “put it at the heart of his 10-point plan the month after becoming PM”.