The Telegraph 2024-03-19 01:00:38


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Sunak set for fresh battle with Lords after MPs vote down Rwanda Bill amendments

Rishi Sunak faces a showdown with the Lords on Wednesday over his Rwanda Bill after he used his Commons majority to reverse their amendments to his flagship legislation.

MPs sent the Bill back to the Lords after voting down their 10 amendments which the Immigration Minister Michael Tomlinson said would delay, frustrate or undermine the Government’s efforts to get deportation flights off to Rwanda this spring.

The Lords will on Wednesday attempt to reinstate some of the amendments in a “ping-pong” battle with the Commons which, if voted through by peers, could delay the passage of the legislation until after Parliament returns from its Easter break on April 15.

If successful, the Home Office has identified 150 migrants for the first two deportation flights who would be detained within days of the Bill gaining royal assent. The legal process of appeals, laid out in legislation, would, however, mean that they would not take off until mid- to late May at the earliest.

Officials “are identifying and have identified the cohort of people who will be the first to board flights” to Rwanda, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed on Monday. “We’re obviously continuing to work at pace on that, such that the first flights are ready to go in the weeks after the Bill passes.”

The Bill is central to the Prime Minister’s pledge to stop the boats and his electoral fortunes by getting the first deportation flights off to Rwanda following nearly two years’ delay from legal challenges to the scheme.

These culminated in the Supreme Court ruling Rwanda unsafe, which the Bill and accompanying Treaty sought to answer by putting in place a legal infrastructure and safeguards to protect deported migrants from being repatriated to countries where they could face persecution or torture.

Crossbenchers could be pivotal

Government whips have asked all 280 Conservative peers to turn up on Wednesday to defeat further attempts by Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbencher Lords to amend the Bill. They can expect up to 220 to turn up which will roughly match the combined numbers of Labour and Lib Dem peers.

Its passage in the Lords will hinge on Mr Sunak getting his vote out and persuading 60 to 70 crossbench peers to back it. “I would have thought most of the crossbenchers will vote against the Government,” said Lord Carlile, a crossbench critic of the Bill and a former independent adviser to ministers on terror legislation.

“It comes down to how many Tories the Government can persuade to attend. I would have thought many will have lumps in their throats in deciding whether to turn up. There is no disciplinary measure of any value that can be taken against them. If they lose the whip, they probably won’t mind too much.”

The Lords will not block the Bill but could delay it through further rounds of “ping-pong” either next week or after Easter, depending on the size of any majorities, in favour of further amendments.

Mr Tomlinson rejected amendments seeking to ensure the Bill complied with domestic and international law by saying there was nothing in the Bill that breached it. He warned that changes to introduce independent checks on the safety of Rwanda would allow “lengthy legal challenges which will delay removal”.

He said Lords’ amendments to extend the right of appeal would lead to “systematic legal challenges” that would “frustrate and delay” removals, warning they were “unnecessary” and would “completely undermine” the purpose of the Bill.

MPs voted by majorities of between 57 and 78 votes to reject the Lords’ amendments.

Support from Labour

For the first flights, ministers are to use migrants drawn from some 5,000 handed notices of intent to deport to Rwanda last year. Internal documents showed only 760 of these were in regular contact with the Home Office, of which officials believed they would be able to round up half. Some 150 will be detained.

Rwanda and UK Government sources on Monday denied suggestions of a two-month pause after the first flights, but confirmed there would be a “staged” approach.

There are only 200 places in the official Hope Hostel in Kigali but Rwanda sources said they had agreements with hotels to take “thousands” more if required before they moved into longer term accommodation.

Labour backed all 10 amendments, as the shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said they made the Bill “marginally less absurd”. “Not one of these amendments is designed to prevent the departure of flights to Rwanda, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly and wrongly implied that they will,” he said.

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Watch: Man kidnapped on street in Bradford

A gang of kidnappers was caught dragging a man into a van by a homeowner’s CCTV camera.

The footage shows the man being coaxed into an alleyway in Bradford, West Yorkshire, before being hauled into the back of the van and driven off. Police arrested a 28-year-old man from Bradford on Monday morning.

Ali Rafiq, 40, was at home when the incident occurred shortly on March 6, and captured it on three of his security cameras.

“I was in total shock when I saw it,” he said. “I felt guilty as I had been at home at the time and thought I heard somebody moaning and groaning – but I just thought it was an argument.”

In the footage, the victim can be seen walking into the alleyway behind a clipboard-carrying man wearing a high-visibility jacket.

Meanwhile, three masked men are lying in wait in the back of a red van parked outside. The footage shows two of the men jumping out of the van’s sliding door and running into the alley after them, where they are then joined by the third.

‘It’s very scary’

What happens next is not captured by Mr Rafiq’s cameras, but after 20 seconds the man with the clipboard jogs out of the alley, followed by the three other kidnappers carrying the victim.

The cameras capture the man writhing and clinging on to a drainpipe. West Yorkshire Police said he suffered jaw and rib injuries.

A black saloon car then drives past the scene as the victim is bundled into the back of the van, which drives off.

“It was only when I watched the footage back I realised what had happened and immediately phoned police,” Mr Rafiq said. “Had I not been at home and watched it back, nobody would have known it happened – it’s very scary.”

West Yorkshire Police said: “Police are investigating a report of kidnap after a man suffered injuries on Westcroft Road, Bradford at around 11.10am on Wednesday 6 March.

“The victim suffered injuries to his jaw and ribs. Enquiries are ongoing by Bradford CID.”

The arrested man is still in custody and has not been charged. The other three kidnappers remain at large.

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