Ken Clarke has blasted Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill, warning that overturning a Supreme Court ruling is “very dangerous” amid fears of the UK slipping into an “elected dictatorship”.
The Tory grandee, seen as a leading figure on the liberal wing of the party, has previously backed the deportation policy, arguing no-one had a better solution to the problem caused by small boats.
But the former chancellor now thinks the policy has hit a “brick wall” after being vetoed by the Supreme Court.
In the Lords, Clarke said that the government over-riding the court risked a situation where “you claim that the colour black is the same as the colour white, all dogs are cats”.
Lord Ken Clarke: " I always fear... about the risks of moving towards an elected dictatorship in this country. The sovereignty of Parliament has its limits, which are the limits of the rule of law... in a liberal democratic society such as ours."#RwandaPlanpic.twitter.com/V2OxoQ0nTX
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) January 29, 2024
He said: “If we pass this bill, we are asserting as a matter of law that Rwanda is a safe country for this purpose, that it is always going to be a safe country for this purpose until the law is changed.
“And the courts may not even consider any evidence brought before them to try to demonstrate that it’s not a safe country.
“This is a very dangerous constitutional provision.
“I hope it will be challenged properly in the court because we have an unwritten constitution, but it gets more and more important that we do make sure that the powers are in this country are controlled by some constitutional limits and are subject to the rule of law.
“Claiming the sovereignty of parliament ... you claim that the colour black is the same as the colour white, all dogs are cats, more seriously that someone who’s been acquitted of a criminal charge is guilty of that criminal charge and should be returned to the courts for sentence.
“Where are the limits?
“I always fear as time goes by in my career, echoes of the warnings that (former lord chancellor) Quintin Hailsham used to give us all about the risks of moving towards an elected dictatorship in this country.
“The sovereignty of parliament has its limits, which are the limits of the rule of law, the separation of powers and what ought to be the constitutional limits on any branch of government in a liberal democratic society such as ours.”
Speaking during the bill’s second reading debate in the Lords, the Tory peer said the bill was “a step too far for me”.
He added: “And I don’t think I can possibly support the bill unless it is substantially amended as it goes through this house and we should urge the Commons to revise it.”
It came as the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill cleared its first major hurdle in the House of Lords, after peers voted 206 to 84, majority 122, against a motion designed to block it