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Rwanda bill vote: Tory rebels have not shown amendments are legally robust, No 10 says – live

Tory rebels have not shown us their legal advice saying their amendments legally robust, No 10 says

Peter Walker

Peter Walker

Downing Street was not shown the legal basis for rebel amendments on the Rwanda bill despite this being offered and asked for, Rishi Sunak’s press secretary has said, in another sign of No 10’s apparent exasperation with the MPs behind the plans.

Downing Street had said it would look carefully at any amendments which would not breach the terms of the deal with Rwanda, and which had legal opinions setting out how this would be the case.

MPs seeking to change the bill, such as the former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, insisted that they had this.

But asked if No 10 had been able to see the legal advice, the PM’s press secretary told journalists at the post-PMQs lobby briefing.

We asked to see last week, and they said that they’d be happy to share it. And I understand that we have since asked to see it every day, and we haven’t received it.

Asked what conclusions should be drawn from this, she added: “I will let you draw your own conclusions.”

UPDATE: Adam Payne from Politics Home says the advice No 10 wants to see is the opinion from John Larkin KC, the former attorney general for Northern Ireland, that Robert Jenrick referred to in his speech yesterday.

An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 17, 2024

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An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 17, 2024

Back in the Commons, Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, is speaking. Since being sacked, she has often strongly criticised the government’s policy on immigration and small boats.

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She says the bill as drafted will lead to a re-run of what happened in the summer of 2022 when a plane was blocked from leaving for Rwanda by an injunction from the European court of human rights.

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She says these injunctions were not part of the original European convention of human rights. They were invented by the court, as part of the process by which it has expanded its remit.

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And she says Labour’s Human Rights Act has made the situation worse. It has encouraged a rights culture, and decisions by the government has been undermined by an activist legal industry.

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As an example, she cites the case of a Nigerian national sentence in 2016 to four years in jail for serious offences, including battery and assault. But an attempt to deport him was blocked on the grounds that he would face serious problems integrating in Nigeria, and those concerns outweighed the public interest in deportation, Braverman says.

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She cites another case where a drug dealer was not deported because he would lose ongoing access to medical treatment he was receiving.

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And she claims that another case has established that, if the government wants to deport someone, it has to show that their life will not be shortened by the removal of their access to NHS facilities.

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As Braverman condemns the ECHR as a “foreign court”, Labour’s Stella Creasy asks, if the ECHR is a foreign court, what is Nato?

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Braverman claims that’s “elementary politics”. She says the court does not have the UK’s interests at heart.

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Patrick Grady from the SNP follows Braverman and he starts by telling MPs they have seen “the first act of the next Conservative leadership contest”.

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strongly attacks ECHR in debate, prompting claim from opposition MPs she’s campaigning for Tory leadership”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Jan 2024 11.04 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 17 Jan 2024 04.35 EST”},{“id”:”65a7ef118f0845976a83fae5″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

David Cameron has rejected suggestions that the controversy about the Rwanda bill is embarrassing for the UK on the world stage.

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When this was put to him at a panel at Davos, the foreign secretary replied: “Quite the contrary.”

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He said countries around the world were having to find a way of dealing with illegal migration and that, although Britain’s approach was “quite unorthodox in some ways”, out-of-the-box thinking like this was necessary to break the model of this “appalling people smuggling”.

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Graeme Wearden has more on this here on his business live blog.

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denies Rwanda bill makes UK an embarrassment on world stage during Q&A at Davos”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Jan 2024 11.04 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 17 Jan 2024 04.35 EST”},{“id”:”65a7ec1b8f08108649989365″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

The UK Government will seek costs from the Scottish government over the gender recognition bill court challenge, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has confirmed.

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Jack’s use of section 35 of the Scotland Act – the first in the history of devolution – to veto the controversial bill, which was passed by a majority at Holyrood – was challenged by the Scottish government at the court of session, which ruled it was lawful last December.

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The bill would have made Scotland the first country in the UK to introduce a self-identification system for people who want to change their legally recognised sex.

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Jack said he has told Scottish ministers that a motion for the award of expenses will be lodged on Friday.

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After the court of sessions’ judgment, Scottish ministers announced they would ditch their legal action against the Westminster’s block, while challenging a future Labour government to allow it to become law by lifting the veto.

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Today Jack said:

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\n

The Scottish government chose to pursue this litigation in spite of the cost to the taxpayer. My legal advisers have today intimated to the Scottish government that we have started the process of seeking an award of expenses in defending the case.

\n

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Last month Jack told a Commons committee the UK government had spent £150,000 on the case.

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Downing Street was not shown the legal basis for rebel amendments on the Rwanda bill despite this being offered and asked for, Rishi Sunak’s press secretary has said, in another sign of No 10’s apparent exasperation with the MPs behind the plans.

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Downing Street had said it would look carefully at any amendments which would not breach the terms of the deal with Rwanda, and which had legal opinions setting out how this would be the case.

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MPs seeking to change the bill, such as the former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, insisted that they had this.

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But asked if No 10 had been able to see the legal advice, the PM’s press secretary told journalists at the post-PMQs lobby briefing.

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We asked to see last week, and they said that they’d be happy to share it. And I understand that we have since asked to see it every day, and we haven’t received it.

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Asked what conclusions should be drawn from this, she added: “I will let you draw your own conclusions.”

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UPDATE: Adam Payne from Politics Home says the advice No 10 wants to see is the opinion from John Larkin KC, the former attorney general for Northern Ireland, that Robert Jenrick referred to in his speech yesterday.

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An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

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An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 17, 2024

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The Conservative MP Giles Watling has published a statement on his website suggesting he would like to see British troops deployed in northern France to stop the boats. He says:

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The Home Office has demonstrated time and again that it is either unwilling or unable to grapple with the scale of the challenge facing it, and to that extent I believe it is time that it is relieved of the responsibility of policing our borders and instead the issue is handed to the Ministry of Defence. This is after all a defence of the realm matter and we need British boots on the ground.

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Our borders must be stronger, and in order to achieve that we must explore negotiating with our continental neighbours, pointing out that they would regain control of their overrun towns from Dunkirk to Boulogne if they allow that, in addition to the people we already have in their command and control centres, we put British boots on the ground in northern France to assist their efforts.

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The statement says Watling will be supporting the government in votes on the bill – even though he does not think the legislation goes far enough and believes “it will not ultimately succeed in full”. Even with the amendments proposed by Tory MPs, it would not go far enough, Watling says – which (rather confusingly) he cites as a reason for not supporting the amendments.

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Sir Jeremy Wright, the Conservative former culture secretary, who was also attorney general between 2014 and 2018, has tabled two amendments to the bill and he is speaking now.

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He says his amendments would remove from the bill passages that imply parliament has the right to decide whether or not the UK is in compliance with international law.

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He says it would be a mistake for the government to imply that international law does not matter. He points out that only two days ago the government was justifying the airstrikes against the Houthis on the grounds that their attacks on shipping were against international law. And he says the UK would not want to leave it up to the Houthis to decide whether or not they were complying with international law.

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Tory attorney general expresses concern Rwanda bill would let UK decide for itself if it’s breaking international law”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Jan 2024 11.04 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 17 Jan 2024 04.35 EST”},{“id”:”65a7d7f78f08a3ffd9293fc8″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

In his speech opening the debate Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, said:

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I don’t believe that our membership of the European convention on human rights is sustainable.

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But he said that was an argument for another day, and he said his amendments were not about leaving the convention.

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Here is our story about the comments from Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. (See 1.11pm.)

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And this is how it starts.

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Rwanda’s president has said there are limits to how long attempts to implement an asylum deal with Britain can “drag on”, adding that he would be happy for the scheme to be scrapped.

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Paul Kagame’s comments to the Guardian in Davos on Wednesday came before Rishi Sunak faced a potentially leadership-ending rebellion by Conservative MPs threatening to vote down his Rwanda deportation bill on Wednesday night.

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Asked if he was following the debate in London, Kagame said: “It is the UK’s problem, not ours.”

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But in comments that are likely to set alarm bells ringing in London, Kagame went on to express frustration at the drawn-out debate about whether asylum seekers would be processed in Rwanda. “There are limits for how long this can drag on,” he said.

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Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, is speaking now for Labour.

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He started by attacking the government for spending so much time on the Rwanda policy when there were so many other problems that needed addressing, like soaring food bills, massive NHS waiting lists and sewage being pumped into rivers.

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And he was particularly scathing about the announcement yesterday that the government was claiming to have found 150 more judges to hear asylum appeals. He said:

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Does the prime minister know that under his leadership and on his watch the crown court backlog in this country is at a record high of 65,000, victims of serious crime regularly are waiting more than two years for their day in court so they can seek justice against their perpetrator?

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A completely and utterly broken system due to 14 years of Tory incompetence and indifference, and yet the prime minister clicks his fingers and is glibly apparently able to magic up 150 judges and 1,000 staff …

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Regardless of the operation issues, just imagine the impact the prime minister’s glib announcement yesterday would have on you if you were the victim of rape who has been languishing for years in our broken judicial system.

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Just imagine the anger and disgust you would feel at the spectacle of a Conservative prime minister sacrificing your fight for justice on the altar of his desperate attempt to cling to power by appeasing his backbenchers. What an utterly shameful and shabby way for the prime minister of our country to behave.

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condemns No 10 for saying it will allocate more judges to asylum cases when rape victims waiting years for trials to start”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Jan 2024 11.04 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 17 Jan 2024 04.35 EST”},{“id”:”65a7d21f8f0845976a83f922″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Back in the Commons, Robert Jenrick said the Rwanda bill as drafted says it is up to a minister to decide whether or not to comply with an injunction from the European court of human rights blocking a deportation flight.

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But he said, as far as he was aware, the attorney general, Victoria Prentis, took the view that if minister did ignore one of these injunctions (known as rule 39 orders) that would be illegal, and in breach of the ministerial code.

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He said, as far as he could remember, the attorney general said there may be “a very small number of cases” where ignoring a rule 39 order might be possible. But that was not the norm, he said, and he told MPs that if the bill is passed unamended, the government would end up having deportation flights blocked, as happened in 2022.

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UPDATE: Jenrick said:

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The attorney general and the government legal service, as far as I am aware, continue to advise ministers and civil servants that a decision not to support a rule 39 interim measure would be illegal and would be in breach on the ministerial code.

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In fact my best recollection of that was that no minister should give any indication that they would ignore a rule 39 interim measure. The attorney general’s position as I understand it is that there is a very small number of cases in which it is conceivable that one could do so.

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But that is a vanishingly slim number of cases and situations. So were that situation to continue, as night follows day we will find ourselves in exactly the same situation we were in in the summer of 2022.

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MPs have now resumed their debate on the Rwanda bill.

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Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, is giving the opening speech. He has tabled most of the rebel amendments backed by dozens of Tory MPs and he is speaking in particular to amendment 11, which is the one would ensure that the Human Rights Act does not apply when deportations to Rwanda are being considered.

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He says the government should make it clear that interim injunctions from the European court of human rights do not apply in these cases. He says it was never envisaged that the court should have these powers when the European convention on human rights was drafted.

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At one point, not so long ago, the Conservative party used to think that immigration, small boats, and in particular the Rwanda policy, might be an election-winning policy for them. There can’t be anyone in CCHQ who thinks that now. For the second week in a row, Keir Starmer merrily ran amok on the issue, leaving Rishi Sunak floundering. In one respect it is another example of the Tories suffering from “long Boris” – because the Rwanda policy wheeze was dreamed up under his watch.

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Starmer was particularly effective today for two reasons. First, he repeatedly challenged Sunak to answer a question he was dodging (how many people earmarked for deportation to Rwanda had been “lost” by the Home Office). Starmer does not regularly use this tactic, but it works well, as it did today. But the main strength of his approach was just the polish with which he ridiculed Sunak. Here’s a flavour of it.

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Spending £400m on a plan not to get anybody to Rwanda whilst losing 4,000 people is not a plan, it’s a farce. Only this government can waste hundreds of millions of pounds on a removals policy that doesn’t remove anyone.

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Only this government could claim that it’s going to get flights off the ground only to discover they couldn’t find a plane. Only this government could sign a removal deal with Rwanda only to end up taking people from Rwanda to here.

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The only relatively novel feature of Sunak’s response was to attack Starmer for having drafted a human rights legal textbook before he became an MP. The Conservative party seems to be working overtime at the moment to find episodes from Starmer’s legal past that supposedly discredit him, but none of them seem to be working, and this one certainly didn’t.

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Starmer says spending £400m on a removals problem that does not remove anyone is not a plan. It is a farce. He asks the question again; where are the missing people?

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Sunak list things that are happening: more enforcement raids, more bank accounts blocked (both of which using powers Labour opposed), a record number of people returned. That is a plan that is working. Numbers coming to the UK are down by a third. And it is a bit rich to hear Starmer says he would stop the boats. Starmer has “no values, no conviction and no plan”. It is back to square one, he says.

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Rishi Sunak is taking PMQs in 10 minutes.

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Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.

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Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Jan 2024 11.04 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Wed 17 Jan 2024 04.35 EST”},{“id”:”65a7b5c48f0845976a83f773″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

As Michael Tomlinson confirmed in interviews this morning (see 9.35am), the government’s latest ploy to assure Tory rebels that it is serious about ignoring European court of human rights’ injunctions banning deportation flights is to suggest that the civil service code will be amended to make it clear that officials can’t use injunctions as a reason to block flights themselves.

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But this idea has been dismissed as “madness” by Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, the union that represents senior civil servants. In an interview with Kevin Schofield from HuffPost, Penman said:

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They’re essentially advising civil servants to act illegally, which will put them in conflict between their obligation to uphold the rule of law and to follow their instructions from elected ministers.

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Ministers have an obligation to not put civil servants in that position. This is madness – changing the civil service code does not change the law.

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And here are some more lines from Michael Tomlinson’s interview round this morning.

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  • Tomlinson, the minister for illegal migration, said he was confident the Rwanda bill would pass its third reading. “We are not going to be defeated tonight, he said.

  • \n

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  • He said the Conservatives shared a “unity of purpose” over the Rwanda bill and that disagreements over what should be in it only amounted to an “inch”. He said:

  • \n

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When we go through the detail of the legislation, yes, there is a difference in emphasis … but in terms of the overall message, the overall desire and aim, every single Conservative speaker yesterday stood up and said that they want this policy to work.

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When it was put to him that Tory MPs fundamentally disagreed, he replied:

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They don’t fundamentally disagree. There are disagreements of emphasis. There’s an inch between us, there’s a determination to ensure that the policy works.

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  • He claimed that the bill would have a 94% deterrent effect on small boat crossings. In his interview on the Today programme, he claimed the Rwanda policy could have the same impact as the PM’s deal with Albania, which has led to a big increase in returns to Albania. When Mishal Husain insisted the two policies were very different (because Albanians are being returned to their home countries, and most of those who have returned were people in prison, not small boat arrivals), Tomlinson persisted with the analogy. He said the Rwanda policy would “start off with small numbers” and then move into the thousands. He said nearly 6,000 Albanians had been deported. Asked when 6,000 people would be sent to Rwanda, he refused to say. But he went on:

  • \n

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We have seen the deterrent effect working in relation to Albania. Albanians crossing on small boats has reduced not by 90%, not by 93%, but 94% as a result of the measures and the steps that have taken. That is exactly the same principle.

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When Husain put it to him, again, that the Albanian scheme was very different, Tomlinson insisted the deterrent principle was the same. He went on:

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It’s a different country, it’s the same principle. It is the deterrent principle that is working and that is in effect 94% of those coming from Albania. We will see the same deterrent effect.

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How long will it take for migrants to be sent to Rwanda if Rishi Sunak’s bill gets royal assent?

Michael Tomlinson, illegal migration minister, tells @MishalHusain this process will take time and will begin with small numbers of migrants initially.#R4Today

— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 17, 2024

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Good morning. Rishi Sunak faces another difficult day over his Rwanda bill, but it seems much more likely than not that by the time he goes to bed he will have got the legislation through the House of Commons unamended.

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Even CCHQ would find it hard to present that as a triumph. Sixty Conservative MPs opposed the government in one of the votes last night, in the biggest rebellion of Sunak’s premiership, three people resigned from party or government positions, the bill still has to get through the House of Lords, and, even if it does become law, you would have to be very generous to say No 10 has made a convincing case to show that it will work.

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But getting the bill past third reading in these circumstances would be a lot, lot better than losing and No 10 seem confident they will win the final vote. According to the Commons website, the government has a working majority of 54 and so if 60 Tory MPs were to vote against, or even if all of them just abstained, the majority would vanish. But only around a dozen or so have said they will vote against and most of them are likely to vote with the government (including Lee Anderson, Brendan Clarke-Smith and Stevenson, the three people who resigned yesterday so they could vote in favour of rebel amendments, according to Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt).

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Faced with a choice between a Rwanda bill they believe is too weak, and no Rwanda bill at all, a possible no confidence vote in Sunak (which he would probably win), and an increased chance of an early election, Conservative MPs seem minded to reject the self-destruct option. This is not the way they have always behaved in recent years, and it is why Sunak may conclude that the outcome could be a lot worse. He is likely to feel more satisfied by the end of the day than the hardline, ERG rightwingers who brought down Theresa May’s Brexit deal and said explicitly they wanted to do the same to the Rwanda bill.

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Today MPs will be discussing amendments including the one from Robert Jenrick intended to ensure that the government really does ignore European court of human rights’ injunctions saying deportation flights should not be allowed to take off. Sunak has said in principle he is willing to do this. But he has not given a cast-iron assurance that in all circumstances he would.

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Why not? Probably because of the attorney general, Victoria Prentis, who has reportedly said that if a minister actually does ignore one of the injunctions (rather than just declaring they might), that would be in breach of international law. And breaking international law is a breach of the ministerial code.

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Michael Tomlinson, the minister for illegal migration, was doing the morning interview round and he offered the Tory rebels an olive branch on this point. He said the government is considering changing the civil service code to say that government can ignore these injunctions, which would mean officials could not ignore them by citing the international law argument. Asked to confirm that was the case, he told the Today programme:

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We are looking at that. What happens at the moment is that civil servants advise, ministers decide, and then our excellent civil servants go on and effect and carry out those policies. But, yes, we are looking to see what can be done to strengthen and reassure.

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I will post more on his interviews shortly.

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Here is the agenda for the day.

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Noon: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

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Noon: The Northern Ireland assembly is being recalled because Sinn Féin wants a debate on public sector pay ahead of a planned mass strike tomorrow. But it is expected that a full sitting will not be possible because the DUP, which has been boycotting power sharing for almost two years, will continue to block the election of a speaker.

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After 12.45pm: MPs resume their debate on the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill. Up to six hours is set aside for the rest of the committee stage debate, and then – if no amendments are passed – up to another hour is set aside for the third reading debate. So the final vote could be mid-evening.

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1pm: David Cameron, the foreign secretary, takes part in a discussion at Davos with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba. Later, at 4.30pm, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, takes part in a discussion on growth. Graeme Wearden is covering all the Davos event on his business live blog.

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If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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Key events

Joelle Grogan, a researcher from the UK in a Changing Europe thinktank, has posted a useful thread on X on European court of human rights’ injunctions, which are the main topic of the Rwanda bill debate this afternoon.

She says they are issued against the UK only quite rarely (about twice a year) and only when there is a “real risk of serious and irreversible harm”.

Quick fact check here on BBC reporting of rule 39 orders.

The one order preventing removal of one person to Rwanda was issued 7.35pm UK time, and government were told before.

Bit early for pjs.

ECHR press release: https://t.co/jBtnPFLOUT https://t.co/ZYEmfYRozy pic.twitter.com/E3RKYgoXhb

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

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But are they often issued against the UK?

Not really. Between 2017-2022, there have been 14 or about ~2 per year.

So far, report of only one order in 2023, which concerned expulsion to the United States, though 2023 stats haven’t been published yet.

See https://t.co/yk8mOPufVH pic.twitter.com/17xiPuOSXd

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

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But are they often issued against the UK?

Not really. Between 2017-2022, there have been 14 or about ~2 per year.

So far, report of only one order in 2023, which concerned expulsion to the United States, though 2023 stats haven’t been published yet.

See https://t.co/yk8mOPufVH pic.twitter.com/17xiPuOSXd

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

Low stats are not unusual. The UK has one of the strongest human rights records before the ECHR.

There have been few ECHR judgments issued against the UK, and have been in overall decline since 2000.https://t.co/7lYjL8OY3O pic.twitter.com/3P5GIPHT4t

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

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Under the law, rule 39 orders (interim measures) are issued on an exceptional basis where there is a ‘real risk of serious and irreversible harm’.

Quick explainer here: https://t.co/euAlFdxQbo

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

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Under the law, rule 39 orders (interim measures) are issued on an exceptional basis where there is a ‘real risk of serious and irreversible harm’.

Quick explainer here: https://t.co/euAlFdxQbo

— Dr Joelle Grogan (@JoelleGrogan) January 17, 2024

Braverman strongly attacks ECHR in debate, prompting claim from opposition MPs she’s campaigning for Tory leadership

Back in the Commons, Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, is speaking. Since being sacked, she has often strongly criticised the government’s policy on immigration and small boats.

She says the bill as drafted will lead to a re-run of what happened in the summer of 2022 when a plane was blocked from leaving for Rwanda by an injunction from the European court of human rights.

She says these injunctions were not part of the original European convention of human rights. They were invented by the court, as part of the process by which it has expanded its remit.

And she says Labour’s Human Rights Act has made the situation worse. It has encouraged a rights culture, and decisions by the government has been undermined by an activist legal industry.

As an example, she cites the case of a Nigerian national sentence in 2016 to four years in jail for serious offences, including battery and assault. But an attempt to deport him was blocked on the grounds that he would face serious problems integrating in Nigeria, and those concerns outweighed the public interest in deportation, Braverman says.

She cites another case where a drug dealer was not deported because he would lose ongoing access to medical treatment he was receiving.

And she claims that another case has established that, if the government wants to deport someone, it has to show that their life will not be shortened by the removal of their access to NHS facilities.

As Braverman condemns the ECHR as a “foreign court”, Labour’s Stella Creasy asks, if the ECHR is a foreign court, what is Nato?

Braverman claims that’s “elementary politics”. She says the court does not have the UK’s interests at heart.

Patrick Grady from the SNP follows Braverman and he starts by telling MPs they have seen “the first act of the next Conservative leadership contest”.

Suella Braverman speaking in the debate
Suella Braverman speaking in the debate Photograph: Parliament UK/Parliament TV

Cameron denies Rwanda bill makes UK an embarrassment on world stage during Q&A at Davos

David Cameron has rejected suggestions that the controversy about the Rwanda bill is embarrassing for the UK on the world stage.

When this was put to him at a panel at Davos, the foreign secretary replied: “Quite the contrary.”

He said countries around the world were having to find a way of dealing with illegal migration and that, although Britain’s approach was “quite unorthodox in some ways”, out-of-the-box thinking like this was necessary to break the model of this “appalling people smuggling”.

Graeme Wearden has more on this here on his business live blog.

David Cameron at Davos today.
David Cameron at Davos today. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

UK government says it’s seeking costs from Scottish government to pay legal fees from gender bill challenge

Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

The UK Government will seek costs from the Scottish government over the gender recognition bill court challenge, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has confirmed.

Jack’s use of section 35 of the Scotland Act – the first in the history of devolution – to veto the controversial bill, which was passed by a majority at Holyrood – was challenged by the Scottish government at the court of session, which ruled it was lawful last December.

The bill would have made Scotland the first country in the UK to introduce a self-identification system for people who want to change their legally recognised sex.

Jack said he has told Scottish ministers that a motion for the award of expenses will be lodged on Friday.

After the court of sessions’ judgment, Scottish ministers announced they would ditch their legal action against the Westminster’s block, while challenging a future Labour government to allow it to become law by lifting the veto.

Today Jack said:

The Scottish government chose to pursue this litigation in spite of the cost to the taxpayer. My legal advisers have today intimated to the Scottish government that we have started the process of seeking an award of expenses in defending the case.

Last month Jack told a Commons committee the UK government had spent £150,000 on the case.

Downing Street has insisted it is not planning to “rewrite” the civil service code, after suggestions that such a move was being considered as part of the Rwanda plan sparked a backlash from trade unions (see 11.20am), PA Media reports.

At the post-PMQs lobby briefing, asked about reports the code will be amended, the PM’s spokesperson said:

What we are looking to do is to provide further guidance so there is clarity for ministers and civil servants on the application of this.

This is simply about ensuring that civil servants act within the code.

This is simply about making sure that we’ve taken every conceivable step to ensure that we get flights off the ground as quickly as possible should the bill progress through the house, as we continue to believe it will.

The government is expected to give more details of updates to the code later this afternoon.

Kate Ferguson from the Sun on Sunday says one Tory rebel is predicting that only around five Conservatives may vote against the government at third reading.

One Tory rebel tells me they only expect a hardcore of four or five MPs to actually vote against the Rwanda Bill tonight

One Tory rebel tells me they only expect a hardcore of four or five MPs to actually vote against the Rwanda Bill tonight

— Kate Ferguson (@kateferguson4) January 17, 2024

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One Tory rebel tells me they only expect a hardcore of four or five MPs to actually vote against the Rwanda Bill tonight

— Kate Ferguson (@kateferguson4) January 17, 2024

Tory rebels have not shown us their legal advice saying their amendments legally robust, No 10 says

Peter Walker

Peter Walker

Downing Street was not shown the legal basis for rebel amendments on the Rwanda bill despite this being offered and asked for, Rishi Sunak’s press secretary has said, in another sign of No 10’s apparent exasperation with the MPs behind the plans.

Downing Street had said it would look carefully at any amendments which would not breach the terms of the deal with Rwanda, and which had legal opinions setting out how this would be the case.

MPs seeking to change the bill, such as the former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, insisted that they had this.

But asked if No 10 had been able to see the legal advice, the PM’s press secretary told journalists at the post-PMQs lobby briefing.

We asked to see last week, and they said that they’d be happy to share it. And I understand that we have since asked to see it every day, and we haven’t received it.

Asked what conclusions should be drawn from this, she added: “I will let you draw your own conclusions.”

UPDATE: Adam Payne from Politics Home says the advice No 10 wants to see is the opinion from John Larkin KC, the former attorney general for Northern Ireland, that Robert Jenrick referred to in his speech yesterday.

An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 17, 2024

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An update on this…

A No 10 source tells PolHome the legal advice they have not yet seen, and which was referred to earlier, is John Larkin KC’s which Robert Jenrick’s amendment relies on

The ERG’s legal advice, which is separate, is in the public domain

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 17, 2024

Tory MP calls for British troops to be deployed in France to stop small boat crossings

The Conservative MP Giles Watling has published a statement on his website suggesting he would like to see British troops deployed in northern France to stop the boats. He says:

The Home Office has demonstrated time and again that it is either unwilling or unable to grapple with the scale of the challenge facing it, and to that extent I believe it is time that it is relieved of the responsibility of policing our borders and instead the issue is handed to the Ministry of Defence. This is after all a defence of the realm matter and we need British boots on the ground.

Our borders must be stronger, and in order to achieve that we must explore negotiating with our continental neighbours, pointing out that they would regain control of their overrun towns from Dunkirk to Boulogne if they allow that, in addition to the people we already have in their command and control centres, we put British boots on the ground in northern France to assist their efforts.

The statement says Watling will be supporting the government in votes on the bill – even though he does not think the legislation goes far enough and believes “it will not ultimately succeed in full”. Even with the amendments proposed by Tory MPs, it would not go far enough, Watling says – which (rather confusingly) he cites as a reason for not supporting the amendments.

Sir Bob Neill, chair of the Commons justice committee, tells the Commons that he thinks the amendments attacking the European court of human rights’s use of injunctions are misplaced. He points out that the court is already reforming the way those injunctions operate.

And he criticises colleagues who have described it as a foreign court. He says it’s international. It is not an alien body, but one over which the UK has joint ownership, he says.

UPDATE: Neill said:

The amendments moved by [Robert Jenrick] are otiose, they are unnecessary, and frankly they make what is a difficult situation worse.

I personally take the view that you should be very loath indeed to ignore the findings of the [European court of human rights] on an interim matter, and it does run the risk … of placing you in breach of your international law obligation in that regard. But the truth is it’s a political decision.

Frankly if any Government wants to take the political risk of ignoring an interim measure it can under our law as it stands.

Joanna Cherry from the SNP is up now. The SNP has attacked the Rwanda policy particularly strongly, and she says there are no polls in Scotland showing support for the policy. But she is mostly talking about legal principle, and she says the bill is anathema to the Scottish legal tradition.

Some Tories have defended the Rwanda policy, despite what international law says, on the grounds that parliament is supreme.

But Cherry says the principle of unlimited sovereignty of parliament is an English principle, with no counterpart in Scottish law. In Scotland sovereignty lies with the people, and there is an acceptance that executive power should not go unchecked. She says this goes back as far as the Declaration of Arbroath.

Cherry has put her name to six amendments to the bill (two with fellow SNP MP Patrick Grady, four of her own) and she says these are designed to ensure that the bill does not apply to Scotland, and that Scottish asylum seekers continue to enjoy the same fundamental rights as other people.

Joanna Cherry speaking in the debate.
Joanna Cherry speaking in the debate. Photograph: Parliament TV

Former Tory attorney general expresses concern Rwanda bill would let UK decide for itself if it’s breaking international law

Sir Jeremy Wright, the Conservative former culture secretary, who was also attorney general between 2014 and 2018, has tabled two amendments to the bill and he is speaking now.

He says his amendments would remove from the bill passages that imply parliament has the right to decide whether or not the UK is in compliance with international law.

He says it would be a mistake for the government to imply that international law does not matter. He points out that only two days ago the government was justifying the airstrikes against the Houthis on the grounds that their attacks on shipping were against international law. And he says the UK would not want to leave it up to the Houthis to decide whether or not they were complying with international law.

Jeremy Wright speaking in the debate.
Jeremy Wright speaking in the debate. Photograph: Parliament TV/HoC

Jenrick says UK’s continuing membership of European convention on human rights not sustainable

In his speech opening the debate Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, said:

I don’t believe that our membership of the European convention on human rights is sustainable.

But he said that was an argument for another day, and he said his amendments were not about leaving the convention.

Rwanda president: efforts to implement asylum plan cannot ‘drag on’

Here is our story about the comments from Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. (See 1.11pm.)

And this is how it starts.

Rwanda’s president has said there are limits to how long attempts to implement an asylum deal with Britain can “drag on”, adding that he would be happy for the scheme to be scrapped.

Paul Kagame’s comments to the Guardian in Davos on Wednesday came before Rishi Sunak faced a potentially leadership-ending rebellion by Conservative MPs threatening to vote down his Rwanda deportation bill on Wednesday night.

Asked if he was following the debate in London, Kagame said: “It is the UK’s problem, not ours.”

But in comments that are likely to set alarm bells ringing in London, Kagame went on to express frustration at the drawn-out debate about whether asylum seekers would be processed in Rwanda. “There are limits for how long this can drag on,” he said.