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Human rights not much use if you’re dead, MP warns peers set against Rwanda plan

Human rights law is “not much use if you’re dead”, a senior Conservative MP said while urging the House of Lords not to get into a drawn-out fight with the Commons over the Rwanda plan.

Sir Bill Wiggin, the Tory MP for North Herefordshire, signalled he was sympathetic to the UK withdrawing from “elements” of the Human Rights Act, which has been used to prevent removals of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill would compel judges to regard the east African country as safe in a bid to clear the way to send migrants who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Rwanda.

Sir Bill urged peers to consider how “asylum applicants will feel as they drown”, insisting the Bill would help to prevent channel crossing deaths.

The Upper House has scuppered the proposals in a series of 10 defeats for the Government, including a block on the removal of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and safeguards to reduce the risk of unaccompanied children being sent to Rwanda.

The Bill will receive its third reading in the Lords on March 12 and MPs will get a chance to debate and vote on the amendments in the following week.

The Government defeats in the Lords set the stage for a protracted stand-off between the two Houses of Parliament, known as “ping-pong”.

As the Commons continued to debate the Budget, Sir Bill said: “We must make sure that the Rwanda Bill is passed.

“I was dismayed that Labour peers blocked this Bill. 64 migrants have died in the English Channel since 2018.

“Every day that goes by is another day that someone could die in the channel and if the Lords continue to block this Bill, this House should consider looking at elements of the Human Rights Act.

“I wonder how their Lordships will feel, or indeed the asylum applicants will feel as they drown. What about their human rights? Not much use if you’re dead.

“So it is important that we deliver on the will of the people by stopping the boats.”

The Conservative MP continued to urge ministers to consider reforming UK human rights law, which is underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

He said: “We don’t need to leave the ECHR but we do need to tell them that we will no longer allow illegal channel crossers to be eligible for asylum.

“They can sling us out of the ECHR if they want, but I don’t believe they will, just as they didn’t when we stopped prisoners from voting.

“We need to protect innocent asylum seekers from being put at risk by people traffickers before more lives are lost.”