Rishi Sunak is facing calls from Tory MPs to “pull” his flagship Rwanda Bill ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons tomorrow night.
The Prime Minister is under growing pressure to make sweeping changes to the legislation after a “star chamber” of Tory legal experts concluded it does not go far enough.
Mark Francois, the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, told broadcasters this afternoon: “The feeling very much in the meeting [of the ERG at lunchtime] is that the Government would be best advised to pull the Bill and to come up with a revised version that works better than this one which has so many holes in it.”
He said the existing Bill would be “quite difficult to amend” and it would be “far better to withdraw the Bill and come up with something which is much better written right from the word go”.
He said: “I very much hope that rather than plough on and damn the torpedoes, the Government will listen, exercise common sense, pull the legislation and come back with something that is fit for purpose.”
David Jones, the deputy chairman of the ERG and a member of the “star chamber”, echoed a similar sentiment as he said No10 should “consider a completely new piece of legislation”.
Mr Jones, a former Cabinet minister, told broadcasters: “I don’t think that the Bill is easily amendable and really I think that the Government needs to review it and maybe consider a completely new piece of legislation because this leaves so many gaps in the legislation and so many ways that people could actually evade the legislation if they wanted to remain in this country.”
No10 published a summary of the legal advice it had received on the deportation flight policy this afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to persuade Tory MPs to back the PM’s plans.
The summary described the Government’s approach as “tough but fair and lawful”. But the “star chamber”, led by senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, concluded the Bill “provides a partial and incomplete solution to the problem of legal challenges in the UK courts being used as stratagems to delay or defeat the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda”.
“The Prime Minister may well be right when he claims that this is the ‘toughest piece of migration legislation ever put forward by a UK Government’, but we do not believe that it goes far enough to deliver the policy as intended,” it said.
The Government’s legislation will declare Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers and limit the scope for legal actions that could prevent migrant flights from taking off.
Some Tory MPs are pushing for the Bill to be toughened up but others believe it already goes too far. MPs are due to vote on the Bill for the first time tomorrow.
You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here.
04:08 PM GMT
That is all for today...
Thank you for joining me for today’s politics live blog.
I will be back tomorrow morning.
03:35 PM GMT
The Tory factions that could make or break Sunak’s premiership
Rishi Sunak is facing a make-or-break time for his premiership as Tory MPs pore over the details of his new plan to stop illegal migration.
My colleague, Nick Gutteridge, has taken a look at the main groups of Conservative backbenchers currently considering whether to back the PM’s Rwanda Bill at a crunch vote in the House of Commons tomorrow night.
03:15 PM GMT
Rwanda Bill would provide 'exceptionally narrow route' for legal challenge
The Rwanda Bill would only provide an “exceptionally narrow route” for migrants to challenge being deported to the country, according to the summary of the Government’s legal advice on the subject.
The summary states that “the Bill does allow for an exceptionally narrow route to individual challenge to ensure that the courts will interpret the relevant provisions in accordance with the will of Parliament”.
“Not to do so would mean ministers accepting that those unfit to fly, for example those in the late stages of pregnancy, or sufferers of very rare medical conditions that could not be cared for in Rwanda, could be removed with no right to judicial scrutiny,” it said.
It also said that “completely blocking any court challenges would be a breach of international law”.
In contrast, the “star chamber” of Tory legal experts argued the revised Rwanda plan would still be open to “significant levels of legal challenge” (see the post below at 13.19).
03:03 PM GMT
'Pull the legislation and come back with something that is fit for purpose'
Mark Francois said the existing Rwanda Bill would be “quite difficult to amend”.
The chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, told GB News it would be “far better to withdraw the Bill and come up with something which is much better written right from the word go”.
He said: “I very much hope that rather than plough on and damn the torpedoes, the Government will listen, exercise common sense, pull the legislation and come back with something that is fit for purpose.”
He added: “This really is the last chance so the Government would be well-advised to get it right.”
02:37 PM GMT
Rwanda Bill not 'fit for purpose', says Mark Francois
Mark Francois, chairman of the Tory European Research Group, said the Rwanda Bill was not fit for purpose.
“So what is really important is, if we’re going to put a Bill through Parliament, to have a piece of legislation which is fit for purpose,” he told broadcasters.
“As the Bill is currently drafted, it isn’t.”
02:14 PM GMT
No10 should consider 'completely new piece of legislation' on Rwanda
David Jones, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group and a member of the “star chamber” of Tory legal experts, suggested the Government should consider starting again on its Rwanda Bill.
Mr Jones, a former Cabinet minister, told broadcasters outside the Houses of Parliament: “I don’t think that the Bill is easily amendable and really I think that the Government needs to review it and maybe consider a completely new piece of legislation because this leaves so many gaps in the legislation and so many ways that people could actually evade the legislation if they wanted to remain in this country.”
02:06 PM GMT
Senior Tory MP urges No10 to 'pull' Rwanda Bill and make changes
Mark Francois, the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs, said the Government should “pull” the Rwanda Bill in order to make changes to it.
He told broadcasters outside the Houses of Parliament this afternoon: “The feeling very much in the meeting [of the ERG at lunchtime] is that the Government would be best advised to pull the Bill and to come up with a revised version that works better than this one which has so many holes in it.
“In as much as there was a consensus, that was the consensus.”
01:56 PM GMT
Government Rwanda legal advice states approach is 'tough but fair and lawful'
The Government has now published a summary of the in-house legal advice it has received on its updated Rwanda plan.
It said that the “Treaty, Bill and evidence together demonstrate Rwanda is safe for relocated individuals, that the Government’s approach is tough but fair and lawful, that it has a justification in the UK’s constitution and domestic law, and it seeks to uphold our international obligations”.
The five-page document concludes: “This is a novel and contentious policy, and the UK and Rwanda are the first countries in the world to enact it together.
“There are risks inherent in such an innovative approach but there is a clear lawful basis on which a responsible government may proceed. For the reasons set out in this paper, a Bill that sought to oust all individual claims would not provide such a basis.”
01:48 PM GMT
What does the Tory 'star chamber' recommend to improve 'Rwanda Bill'?
In simple terms, the “star chamber” wants the Government to be more specific in its measures to ensure flights can take off and to be tougher in its overall approach to preventing potential legal challenges.
The chamber said: “It would be best to specify what is to be permitted. This would involve the placing of illegal migrants onto planes to Rwanda, based on a good faith decision by officials (unchallengeable except, perhaps, for obvious bad faith, strictly defined).
“The Bill would then specify all of the laws that are excluded in order for this to happen. The Bill could expressly exclude legal challenges that would improperly delay or block removal, and ensure that there are explicit ousters of jurisdiction for injunctions based on decisions which led to an individual being chosen for a Rwanda flight. Courts will uphold these provisions provided they are clear and unambiguous.”
01:32 PM GMT
'Serious risk' of no Rwanda flights 'for months' after Bill becomes law
Tory legal experts said there is a “serious risk that there will be no, or very few, actual removals to Rwanda for months” after the Rwanda Bill becomes law.
The “star chamber” led by senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said that the Bill’s “threshold requirement for interim relief that there should be a risk of ‘serious and irreparable harm’ is in practice much easier to surmount than the words might suggest”.
“There is a serious risk that there will be no, or very few, actual removals to Rwanda for months after the Bill comes into force,” the chamber argued.
01:19 PM GMT
Revised Rwanda plan still open to 'significant levels of legal challenge'
The revised Rwanda plan would still be open to “significant levels of legal challenge”, a “star chamber” of Tory legal experts has concluded.
The chamber said the Bill “contains no restrictions on the bringing of legal challenges against removal to Rwanda based on grounds other than that Rwanda is not a safe country”.
It argued that “it is to be expected that if the Bill successfully blocks challenges based on contentions that Rwanda is not safe, then migrants and their advisers will focus more of their efforts on generating and pursuing challenges of other kinds”.
By continuing to allow individual claims to be made against deportation, the number of individual challenges are “likely to be numerous” with a “high rate of success”.
12:54 PM GMT
Rwanda Bill does not go 'far enough', says 'star chamber' of Tory legal experts
A “star chamber” of Conservative legal experts has declared Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill does not go far enough.
The chamber, led by senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, presented its findings to the European Research Group of Conservative MPs at lunchtime.
It concluded that the Bill “provides a partial and incomplete solution to the problem of legal challenges in the UK courts being used as stratagems to delay or defeat the removal of illegal migrants to Rwanda”.
“The Prime Minister may well be right when he claims that this is the ‘toughest piece of migration legislation ever put forward by a UK Government’, but we do not believe that it goes far enough to deliver the policy as intended.”
12:42 PM GMT
Back the Rwanda Bill or risk the sovereignty of Parliament, say KCs
The emergency Rwanda legislation cannot go any further, four leading barristers have warned.
The four KCs – including Geoffrey Cox, the former attorney general – say that attempts to toughen up the Rwanda Bill risk breaching international law, would force Rwanda to collapse the scheme and could ultimately undermine the sovereignty of Parliament.
You can read the full story here.
12:15 PM GMT
Sunak to meet Tory MPs ahead of vote on Rwanda Bill
Rishi Sunak will meet potential Tory rebels over his Rwanda Bill over breakfast in No10 tomorrow before a vote on the legislation later that day, writes Ben Riley-Smith.
Members of the New Conservatives group, which is headed up by Tory MPs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates, have been invited to the gathering.
It follows members of the Cabinet and Downing Street leading on attempts to talk down potential rebels over the weekend, with the Prime Minister focussed on his Covid Inquiry appearance.
12:10 PM GMT
No10 to publish summary of Rwanda Bill legal advice
Downing Street will publish a summary of the Government’s latest legal advice relating to the Rwanda Bill this afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to persuade Tory MPs to back Rishi Sunak’s flagship migration plans.
No10 announced the move at lunchtime and said it had decided to take the unusual step due to the “significant public interest” on the subject of stopping small boat Channel crossings.
The summary will reflect the latest and most “up to date” legal advice the Government has received on the matter.
The decision to publish a summary of the legal advice comes as different tribes of Tory MPs weigh up whether to support the legislation. MPs are due to vote on the Rwanda Bill for the first time tomorrow evening.
The Government does not ordinarily release the details of its confidential legal advice.
11:45 AM GMT
Tories risk voter backlash if Rwanda plan fails, says senior MP
Voters could tell the Tories “three strikes and you are out” if Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan fails, a senior Tory MP has said.
Mark Francois, the chairman of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs, said two previous attempts to address the small boats issue had not worked and voters could punish the party at the ballot box if there is a third failure.
Asked if the Tories were right to focus so much attention on tackling illegal migration when the legal migration number was far higher, Mr Francois told GB News: “I think to be honest we have got to address both. We have had two previous pieces of legislation on this.
“We had the Nationality and Borders Act 2021 which was meant at least in part to address the boats problem. That didn’t work. We have the Illegal Immigration Act 2023. Same thing. That hasn’t worked. The risk is that the electorate will say ‘three strikes and you are out’.”
11:29 AM GMT
‘Just sending a few won’t cut it’
Tory MP Mark Francois said the Government will need to deport “quite a lot” of migrants to Rwanda in order to stop small boat Channel crossings.
The chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs told GB News: “Just sending a few won’t cut it. You are going to have to send quite a lot so the word gets round.”
11:13 AM GMT
Reader poll: Do you support Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Bill?
MPs will vote on Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill for the first time tomorrow evening.
The Bill will formally designate Rwanda as a safe country for asylum seekers, with the Government hoping this, along with a new treaty with Rwanda, will be enough to finally get deportation flights off the ground.
But some Tory MPs believe the legislation is not tough enough while others are concerned it may go too far.
Do you support the Bill? You can have your say in our reader poll here:
10:57 AM GMT
Tory MPs to spend ‘all day’ discussing whether to back Rwanda Bill
Tory MPs will be discussing whether to back Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill “all day” and probably into tomorrow, the chairman of the European Research Group said.
Mark Francois told GB News: “There will be a discussion all day and probably into tomorrow morning about how to vote.
“I have learnt from past experience never to predict that way in advance. I think we need to hear from the horses’ mouth what Sir Bill [Cash] and his team of legal experts have concluded. That obviously will inform the debate.
“But if the Bill is deficient in certain aspects, if it won’t do what it says on the tin, Sir Bill and his team will explain why that is.”
MPs are due to vote on the Bill’s second reading tomorrow evening.
10:48 AM GMT
ERG ‘star chamber’ report on Rwanda Bill to be released at 1pm
Mark Francois, the chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tory MPs, said the ERG will publish its “star chamber” verdict on the Rwanda Bill at one o’clock this afternoon.
ERG Tory MPs will be presented with the findings first at noon.
Mr Francois told GB News: “Around one o’clock we will then publish the report of the star chamber, it is about 10 pages, online so that all the media can read it and even more importantly all the people of the United Kingdom can read it for themselves if they so wish.”
10:33 AM GMT
Pictured: Nigel Farage enjoys a pint after leaving the jungle in Australia
10:19 AM GMT
Tory tribes set to meet to discuss whether to back Rwanda Bill
It is a big day for Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill as tribes of Tory MPs from both the centre and right of the Conservative Party meet to consider if they will back the flagship legislation.
Hardline Brexiteers from the European Research Group and other camps on the Conservative right will hold a meeting at noon.
Senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash will present the findings to the ERG of his so-called “star chamber” of lawyers. But he has already signalled they do not believe the proposed law is fit to get the grounded £290 million scheme up and running.
The more moderate wing of One Nation Conservatives will then hold a separate meeting this evening before releasing a statement on their verdict.
09:59 AM GMT
Rishi Sunak set to give evidence to Covid Inquiry
Rishi Sunak is set to face a grilling this morning and this afternoon as he gives evidence to the Covid Inquiry.
The Prime Minister has already arrived at the venue in central London and the evidence session will get underway from 10.30am.
You can follow every twist and turn over on The Telegraph’s Covid Inquiry live blog here.
09:44 AM GMT
'There was never any modelling done for the new Rwanda Bill'
Grant Shapps’ claim that only one in 200 migrant appeals against being sent to Rwanda would succeed (see the post below at 08.13) is based on “outdated” modelling, a senior Tory source told The Telegraph.
They said: “This is an outdated and analytically flawed model - from March - which came before defeats in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. No10 don’t realise the world has changed and that’s their fundamental problem.
“There was never any modelling done for the new Rwanda Bill because they failed to plan. Even this old, optimistic model says it could take two months. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.”
09:36 AM GMT
Farage claims Tories in 'total shambles', labels Sunak a 'lame duck'
Nigel Farage claimed the Government is in a state of “total shambles” and labelled Rishi Sunak a “lame duck walking” over the Rwanda migrant plan.
The former leader of the Brexit Party said this morning after finishing third in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! that he believed the Tories are “headed for total defeat” at the next general election.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme, Mr Farage said: “I am looking at a Conservative government that is in total shambles, facing tomorrow effectively a confidence vote on an issue that affects every single living human being in our country, namely immigration on a level that never happened even during Tony Blair’s days.
“Rishi is a lame duck walking, the Conservative Party are headed for total defeat.
“As to whether I have a future in politics, I have no idea at this moment in time. But what I would say is never say never and our country needs, actually, people at the top with some firm guidance as to where we are going to go in the future. At the moment we are rudderless and I don’t see a Labour Party with the strength to get us out of this mess.”
'Are you seeking to use your I'm a Celebrity journey to rejoin the Conservatives and finally get into the UK Parliament?'@edballs questions Nigel Farage over a return to politics after he came third in the I'm a Celebrity jungle 🐛🐞🐜 pic.twitter.com/sLU7RaFmuL
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) December 11, 2023
09:21 AM GMT
Shapps rejects claim of Rishi Sunak Tory leadership 'chaos'
Grant Shapps rejected the suggestion Rishi Sunak’s leadership was in chaos, insisting the Prime Minister was succeeding in cutting small boat crossings and meeting key economic pledges.
Asked if Mr Sunak’s leadership was being questioned, the Defence Secretary told BBC Breakfast: “I just don’t agree with you… a third down, in terms of crossings, slashed by a third. Inflation halved, the economy growing when every commentator and body was saying that it would shrink this year.
“We are having success in these areas. Because, yes, sometimes you have to fight these things through, yes, you will have arguments about them – that’s the whole point of parliamentarians, if you don’t mind me saying, rather than some sort of spectacular goings-on. But, actually, the facts are we’re having success with it.”
09:00 AM GMT
Rwanda plan will clear the Commons ‘for sure’, says Shapps
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the Rwanda legislation will get through the House of Commons, but acknowledged it could face problems in the Lords.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We have a majority in the House of Commons, so it will pass there, for sure. We don’t have a majority in the House of Lords. In that chamber, Labour whip their lords to vote against every single piece of legislation that we have passed in order to stop the small boats, then they come out and say ‘you haven’t stopped the small boats’.”
He sidestepped questions on whether Tory MPs would lose the party whip if they voted against the Rwanda Bill tomorrow, but added: “I have no doubt at all that the House of Commons will be able to pass it.”
But he said the legislation could get “tripped up” in the Lords.
08:43 AM GMT
Farage not an election threat to Tories, says Shapps
Grant Shapps has rejected the suggestion that Nigel Farage could pose a political threat to the Conservative Party at the next general election.
Mr Farage last night finished third on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK, said he believed he can now help the party plan for a possible early election.
But asked if Mr Farage was a threat to the Tories at the ballot box, Mr Shapps told Times Radio: “I don’t think so. He is not actually a Member of Parliament of course. In the end he has had a big influence obviously on what has happened in British politics.
“But people want political parties who aren’t single-issue obsessed, who actually get on with delivering for the British people.”
08:35 AM GMT
Shapps tells Lineker to stick to TV presenting amid Rwanda row
Grant Shapps has criticised Gary Lineker and said the former England footballer should stick to TV presenting amid a row over the Rwanda deportation plan.
Mr Lineker was among a group of celebrities calling for the Government to scrap the Rwanda scheme.
Asked if Mr Lineker should express such views while working for the BBC, Defence Secretary Mr Shapps told Times Radio: “No. And he has been through all of this before and the BBC have told him he shouldn’t do this type of thing but still it continues.”
Asked if the BBC should sack Mr Lineker, Mr Shapps said: “I think it is perfectly right that I express my view which is that I just fundamentally disagree with him. What happens to him next is up to the BBC.”
He added: “I know millions of people watch him for his football commentary and TV presenting. I would have thought it was better to stick with that.”
08:30 AM GMT
Rwanda plan would make it 'nigh on impossible' for small boat migrants to stay in UK, says Shapps
The Government’s Rwanda plan will make it “nigh on impossible” for asylum seekers to cross the English Channel and stay in the UK, Grant Shapps said.
Told that the Tories appeared to be obsessed with the deportation flights, the Defence Secretary told Times Radio: “You certainly can do [other] stuff, but if you really want to stop it you have to break the model of the people traffickers sending people across the Channel.
“And we think that one of the most significant things you could do is make it nigh on impossible to actually use that illegal route… and then stay here. That is why we think we need to toughen this up further and that is why I think Rwanda and the treaty that we have done with Rwanda and this piece of legislation are so important.”
He added: “What the Government is saying is we think this is in the right place, we think it keeps us within international law, it does provide a very narrow path for appeals. But as I say, the vast majority of appeals would not get through.”
08:16 AM GMT
Ministers braced to be ‘fought tooth and nail’ over Rwanda plan
Ministers expect to be “fought tooth and nail” in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords over the Rwanda Bill, Grant Shapps said this morning.
MPs are due to vote on the draft legislation which declares Rwanda a safe country for the first time tomorrow in the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy road to making it onto the statute book.
Mr Shapps, the Defence Secretary, told Times Radio: “We are down by over a third this year [small boat Channel crossings] and now proposing a piece of legislation which no doubt will be fought tooth and nail in the House of Commons and House of Lords by Labour and others which intends to reduce it dramatically further again.
“What I would say is, at least we have a plan and the plan is actually working.”
08:13 AM GMT
Shapps: 199 out of every 200 appeals would fail under Rwanda plan
Grant Shapps has urged Tory backbenchers to unite behind Rishi Sunak’s flagship Rwanda Bill amid the threat of a Conservative revolt.
The Defence Secretary said the Government believed the Bill would mean just one in 200 migrant appeals against deportation would succeed.
Mr Sunak is under growing pressure to toughen up the Bill amid fears from some Tory MPs that it does not go far enough. MPs will vote on the legislation for the first time tomorrow.
Mr Shapps told Times Radio: “I think my simple message is this plan is working, let’s unite behind it and get this further legislation through.
“This legislation, by the way, based on Home Office calculations means that of the cases which currently allow people to appeal, that only about one out of 200 cases ultimately would be able to get through that appeal. So this is a very significant, even dramatic move, designed to make the Rwanda route work.”