Rwanda stand-off continues as peers inflict fresh defeats on asylum policy

The parliamentary “ping-pong” over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda scheme will continue on Wednesday after peers gave the controversial policy a fresh beating.

Despite MPs overturning previous changes by the House of Lords, the unelected chamber on Tuesday again pressed demands for revisions to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, prolonging the parliamentary wrangling.

The latest Government setbacks mean the proposed law is being sent back to the House of Commons, where it is expected to be presented again on Wednesday before once again being passed back to the Lords.

The legislation seeks to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Kigali.

The Bill and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the Lords insisted on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

Peers also renewed their demand for the Bill to have “due regard” for international and key domestic laws, including human rights and modern slavery legislation.

In addition, they backed a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country until an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in the treaty are fully implemented and remain in place.

An exemption from removal for those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters, secured renewed support.

The Lords’ insistence on the amendments ensures a third round of “ping-pong” over the Bill, where legislation is batted between the two Houses until they agree on its final wording.

It will only receive royal assent and become law once agreement is reached.

Ahead of the upcoming general election, Mr Sunak has made “stopping the boats” a key pledge of his leadership.

He sees the Rwanda scheme as a vital deterrent to Channel crossings.

The Prime Minister could use RAF Voyager aircraft for Rwanda deportation flights after the Home Office failed to find an airline that would charter the flights, The Times reported.

Downing Street has drawn up plans to order the Ministry of Defence to repurpose at least one of the leased aircraft for this purpose, according to the newspaper.

The Home Office declined to comment on specific leaks but a spokesperson said: “We make no apology for pursuing bold solutions to stop illegal migration, dismantle the people smuggling gangs and save lives.”

Nearly two years after then-home secretary Dame Priti Patel first announced the deal with Rwanda, Labour attacked the Tories over the plan, noting that more than 75,000 migrants have made the journey since then.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “On the two-year anniversary of the Rwanda farce, ministers need to be honest with the public about how much time and taxpayers’ money has been wasted.

“They were warned repeatedly about the cost and weaknesses of the Rwanda scheme. Meanwhile the serious problems with our border security, with criminal gangs and rising asylum hotel bills have all got worse and worse. Yet all the Government has done is to write more and more cheques to Rwanda. Talk about fiddling as Rome burns.

“The Prime Minister must end this farce and instead back Labour’s plan to boost our border security and fix the asylum chaos.”