Rishi Sunak will come under pressure to toughen up his flagship Rwanda Bill or face the prospect of it being killed off by his MPs in a Commons revolt.
The Prime Minister will be told by a “star chamber” of Conservative lawyers on Monday that the Rwanda Bill will not get deportation flights off the ground unless it is toughened significantly.
The panel is expected to demand changes to further curb the right of individual migrants who arrived in the UK illegally to appeal, and to impose a blanket block on interventions by Strasbourg judges that stop flights taking off.
Their findings will reinforce pleas by Tory MPs for Mr Sunak to agree to consider changes to the Bill in exchange for their support at a crunch vote when it comes before the Commons on Tuesday for its second reading.
Mr Sunak has previously said the Bill is the only approach and going a further “inch” would raise the risk of Rwanda quitting the scheme. But on Sunday Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, hinted at compromise for the first time, saying the Government would “consider thoughtful suggestions” about how the Bill could be “improved”.
Monday’s vote represents the biggest test of Mr Sunak’s premiership.
Only 29 Tory MPs need to vote against it, or 57 abstain, for the Prime Minister to lose as the opposition parties will vote against. The last time a government lost a second reading vote was in 1986.
Fears of confidence crisis
Most Tory MPs contacted by The Telegraph said they would back the Bill rather than trigger a confidence crisis for the Prime Minister, and would instead seek amendments in the New Year when it returns to the Commons. But a significant minority are threatening to abstain or vote against unless Mr Sunak agrees to consider amendments.
Tories on the Right have indicated that they would be willing to accept a commitment to be open to amendments at a later stage, without specific proposals being laid in Parliament on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, said he could not support the Bill without changes, repeating his warning that the scheme would be “bogged down” in the courts unless the Government blocked all avenues of legal claims by illegal migrants.
As many as 50 more Tory MPs on the Right of the party are said to want changes to the legislation and will use the “star chamber” findings as ammunition to push for amendments to the Bill.
The findings of the four-strong panel, chaired by the veteran Brexiteer MP Sir Bill Cash, will be published at a noon meeting on Monday chaired by Mark Francois, who heads up the European Research Group (ERG). They are likely also to be backed by the New Conservatives and Common Sense groups of MPs.
The Telegraph understands that it will demand a legal provision to ensure ministers must ignore any Rule 39 injunctions by Strasbourg judges, which were used to ground the first Rwanda flight in June 2022. At present, the Bill proposes it will be a discretionary power. However, legal advice given to the Government says that ignoring an injunction would be in breach of international law.
Right to appeal
The Bill states that Rwanda is a safe country and disapplies large parts of the Human Rights Act, but under section four of the proposed legislation, migrants have the right to appeal on an individual basis if they can prove that being sent to Rwanda would put them at risk of “serious and irreversible harm”.
“Section four of the Bill seems to be driving a coach and horses through it,” said a former cabinet minister. “The problem is that it is inviting people to make a claim.”
The “star chamber” is expected to propose that Mr Sunak should go further and curtail – if not block – rights to individual challenge.
Mr Sunak is also facing a potential backlash from the centrist One Nation group of MPs, which is said to be “uneasy” about the way the Bill overrides the verdict of the Supreme Court that Rwanda was unsafe for asylum seekers.