PM facing Tory rebellions on small boats legislation ahead of Commons return

Rishi Sunak is facing potential Conservative rebellions over his Illegal Migration Bill as MPs prepare to go through the legislation line by line.

The controversial legislation designed to put a stop to migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats returns to the House of Commons for its committee stage on Monday.

The Prime Minister is facing objections to the terms of the Bill from two wings of his party, both the liberal and the right.

Right-wing MPs have signalled that it does not go far enough, with some calling for ministers to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to drive through tighter border controls.

Others on the liberal wing want to see Mr Sunak commit to establishing safe routes via which asylum seekers can come to Britain.

Under the legislation’s proposals, it would see asylum seekers arriving through unauthorised means being detained without bail or judicial review for 28 days before being “swiftly removed” to their home country or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.

In preparation for two days of debates on the small boats law, tens of would-be Tory rebels have put their names to amendments designed to tighten rules around blocking deportations and migrant accommodation in Britain.

As of Sunday, close to 30 Tories had put their name to an amendment to the Bill that would stop the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) from preventing removals from taking place.

It comes after the ECHR last year granted an injunction, via its Rule 39, that effectively grounded a flight sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been in what she called “constructive” negotiations with the Strasbourg court to secure a higher legal threshold for any injunction under Rule 39 to be imposed on any future deportation flights.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
The Illegal Migration Bill is designed to crackdown on small boats crossing the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It is understood the discussions have also involved the European court taking the UK High Court’s decision into account when considering any future Rule 39 orders.

In an amendment sponsored by Tory Devizes MP Danny Kruger, he wants the provisions in the Bill to “operate notwithstanding any orders of the Strasbourg court or any other international body”.

Former minister Andrea Jenkyns, one of its backers, tweeted that she had signed amendments with the intention of “strengthening the bill and stopping the European Court of Human Rights’ laws superseding British law”.

Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove was asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme if the rebels’ ECHR amendment would be considered by the Government.

It follows reports that Downing Street officials are preparing to meet with a gang of rebels on Monday to discuss their concerns about the legislation.

Mr Gove suggested Home Office ministers were open to further talks about the strength of the Bill.

Suella Braverman visit to Rwanda
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has recently returned from a trip to Rwanda where Britain wants to sent migrants who enter the country unlawfully (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said: “I know that the immigration minister Robert Jenrick has been working incredibly hard to make sure that this legislation works, has been talking to MPs who may be in a position to ensure that every aspect of this Bill works.”

Downing Street said Mr Sunak is continuing to engage with backbenchers over the legislation’s proposals.

A Home Office source said the legislation contains a “marker clause” relating to ECHR deportation orders.

It is understood the clause allows for initial negotiations with Strasbourg to conclude before ministers consider setting out further legal measures.

Mr Sunak and Ms Braverman have both stressed that they think the draft law complies with international obligations and that Britain would not need to exit the European Convention on Human Rights to introduce the plans.

But in a letter to MPs following publication of the Bill earlier this month, the Home Secretary conceded there is a “more (than) 50% chance” her legislation may not be compatible with the convention.

Separately, Tory MP Tim Loughton has proposed an amendment that would force the Home Secretary to declare “safe and legal routes by which asylum seekers can enter” the UK.

It has been signed by former Brexit secretary David Davis and Dame Diana Johnson, the Labour chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.