Lord Clarke said it amounted to using parliamentary sovereignty to call white black, cats dogs or declaring a cleared defendant guilty, asking: “Where are the limits?”
He added: “I always feared, as time goes by in my career, echoes of the warnings that Quintin Hailsham [the former Tory Lord Chancellor] used to give us all about the risks of moving towards an elective dictatorship in this country.”
He warned the Government that he would not support the Bill unless it was “substantially amended” and evidence provided to show that measures had been introduced to ensure Rwanda was safe for asylum seekers.
The Bill is underpinned by a new legally-binding treaty designed to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court. It restricts the ability of illegal migrants to challenge their deportation and enables ministers to ignore attempts by Strasbourg judges to block flights. Mr Sunak has maintained that it complies with international law.
However, the Archbishop attacked the Bill as damaging for the UK’s reputation, for asylum seekers, for the rule of law and for the nation’s unity. “We can as a nation do better than this Bill,” he told the Lords.
He said the Government had good objectives in seeking to stop the boats but was doing it “in the wrong way, leading the nation down a damaging path”.
“It is damaging for asylum seekers in need of protection, and safe and legal routes to be heard. It is damaging for this country’s reputation, which it contradicts even as late as last week, where the Prime Minister himself spoke eloquently on the value and importance of international law for this country,” he added.
“It is damaging to constitutional principles and the rule of law. And most of all, High Lords, it is damaging for our nation’s unity in a time when the greatest issues of war, peace, defence and security need us to be united.”
The Archbishop called for a wider strategy on refugee policy, based on international cooperation, that would enable the UK to integrate asylum seekers in the face of a potential 10-fold increase in the number of refugees because of conflict, climate change and poverty.