Rebellion on Illegal Migration Bill seen off for now after talks with Tory MPs

·5-min read

A rebellion from Tory MPs seeking amendments to the controversial Illegal Migration Bill appears to have been partially defused, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman believed to be in discussions ahead of a debate later.

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, with Downing Street facing objections to the Bill from both the liberal and the right wings of the Conservative Party.

The Bill has been at the centre of controversy, with critics warning that the proposed legislation leaves the UK foul of its international obligations.

But right-wing Tory 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.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q&A session during a Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q&A session during a Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex (Kin Cheung/PA)

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

The Prime Minister sought to play down suggestions he and Ms Braverman were at odds over the Bill following reports she has been privately encouraging rebels on the right in order to pressurise him to toughen up the legislation.

Speaking during a visit to Essex, Mr Sunak said he was confident they had designed a Bill that was “robust and effective” while remaining compliant with the UK’s obligations under international law.

“The Home Secretary and I have worked incredibly closely for the last two months to get the legislation exactly right,” he said.

“This is a tough piece of legislation, the likes of which we haven’t seen. It’s important that it is effective, which it will be. It is also important that we abide by our international obligations. This is a country and a Government that does follow the law.”

Downing Street dismissed suggestions that Ms Braverman was being used a “right-wing sock puppet” by Tory rebels seeking to dilute the role of the European Court of Human Rights.

“Both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been clear that this Bill will comply with international law and stop the boats,” the spokesman said.

Policing minister Chris Philp said Ms Braverman is in “listening mode as always”, as he played down suggestions that the Government could accept amendments to establish more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to enter the UK.

He said on Monday morning that there would now not be a vote on some of the amendments being pushed by the right of the party.

Mr Philp said: “My understanding is that the various amendments to strengthen the Bill aren’t going to be pushed to a vote today or tomorrow.

“They are being discussed between those people who proposed the amendments and the Government, and the Home Secretary in particular. I know the Home Secretary is keen to make sure this Bill is effective.”

The legislation 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 had put their names to amendments designed to tighten rules around blocking deportations and migrant accommodation in Britain.

Tory MP Danny Kruger had said he wanted provisions in the Bill to “operate notwithstanding any orders of the Strasbourg court or any other international body”.

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

“We are looking for commitments from the Government to take seriously the amendments we are putting down that would strengthen the Bill,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.

“We are very supportive of what they are doing – there is no rebellion here – but we do want to make sure we get those commitments.

“So we are waiting to hear what they say at the despatch box and I am hopeful that we can get the engagement that we want so that we can tighten the Bill.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q&A session during a Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q&A session during a Connect event in Chelmsford, Essex (Kin Cheung/PA)

Mr Philp stressed that the Home Secretary is “discussing these various amendments with Members of Parliament”.

“I am sure she is in listening mode as always.”

“But this Bill is a well-designed, well-constructed Bill designed to stop the boats which the public expect the Government to do,” he told Sky News.

Later Mr Philp also played down suggestions that the Government could accept amendments to establish more safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to enter the UK.

He told LBC: “This country has a lot of safe and legal routes established already.

“In terms of creating more, my own view is that we should fix the illegal immigration problem first, stop the boats, as the Prime Minister has committed, and then we can add in these additional and safe and legal routes.”

Leading that rebellion was Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee who said he wants “clearly defined safe and legal routes” for “genuine refugees coming from around the world, so we can clamp down on those bogus asylum seekers who are frankly gaming the system and largely coming across in little boats at the moment”.

Mr Sunak, accompanied by Ms Braverman, was heckled as the pair visited a town in Essex on Monday.

One woman shouted out: “Allow migrants into our country.”

Shouting at the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, the woman added: “Go away. We don’t want you here.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Bill is a “con” that is “going to make the chaos worse” at the border.