Rwanda bill ‘pushing at edge of the envelope’ but ‘within framework of international law’ says home secretary – UK politics live | Politics

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Cleverly says bill ‘pushing at edge of envelope’ but still ‘within framework of international law’

John Baron (Con) asks Cleverly to confirm that the government will remain within international law.

Cleverly says he is confident, on the basis of conversations with the government’s legal advisers, that what it is doing is “within the framework of international law”.

But the measures are “novel”, and “very much pushing at the edge of the envelope”, he says.

Key events

In his interview on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg at the weekend, Robert Jenrick, asked if he would be voting for the bill, replied: “No, I won’t be supporting this bill. But I do think we can fix it.”

In his speech this afternoon Jenrick sounded more positive about the bill. He said:

This is not a bad bill but it is not the best bill. I want this bill to work.

The test of this policy is not ‘is it the strongest bill we’ve done?’, it’s not ‘is it a good compromise?’, it’s ‘will it work?’.

That is all the public care about. They don’t care about Rwanda as a scheme, they care about stopping the boats. And we are sent here to do that for them.

I will never elevate contested notions of international law over the interests of my constituents, over vital national interests like national security, like border security.

This bill could be so much better, let’s make it better. Let’s make it work.

This prompted some speculation on social media that he might vote for the bill after all. But Emilio Casalicchio has confirmed that Jenrick is not voting for the bill.

NEW: Despite a somewhat ambiguous speech, I’m told Robert Jenrick will NOT vote for the Rwanda Bill unless the govt amends it.

— Emilio Casalicchio (@e_casalicchio) December 12, 2023

Jenrick is expected to abstain, like other Conservative MPs with doubts about the bill.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, the Conservative former attorney general, is next up. He has been giving interviews within the last 24 hours backing the government, and he says he wants to address both those who think the bill goes too far, and those who thinks it does not go far enough.

Addressing Labour critics of the bill, he says the last Labour government declared that some countries should be deemed safe for asylum seekers.

Some people say this bill is different because the bill is reversing a supreme court judgment.

But parliament is entitled to reverse a decision by the courts, he says.

He says this bill is doing exactly what Labour did in 2004.

He says the new treaty with Rwanda removes the risk of “refoulement” – the risk of asylum seekers being sent back to the country where they were at risk of persecution.

Turning to the Tory objections to the bill, he says it would be wrong to remove all rights to legal challenge to deportation. If the government did that, the deal with Rwanda would collapse, he says.

The right to go to court in an extreme case is part of the British constitution that the Conervative party has long defended, he says.

Diana Johnson, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee, is speaking now. She says her committee has not been able to get the Home Office to say how much it will spend on each individual asylum seeker sent to Rwanda. She says Michael Tomlinson, the minister for illegal migration, should provide costings when he winds up the debate later.

Back in the Commons Sir Bill Cash, who led the European Research Group’s “star chamber” panel of legal experts who published a report on the Rwanda bill, is speaking now.

He says if parliament passes a law, the courts should apply it, whether it breaks international law or not.

He praises Robert Jenrick for his speech. And he says that he thinks the bill can be improved.

A reader asks:

The government is recalling a minister from the climate summit. Why can’t they ask the opposition for a pairing? Given the importance of Cop28 to the UK, Labour might have agreed to this … or is this more performative from the Conservatives?

The government and opposition do agree to pair MPs, and I’m sure they have done that today. But if the opposition have only got, say, 14 MPs who can’t make the vote because they are ill/away or whatever, that is all they will offer the government – even if the government wants more pairs. And the government normally has more people away because there 100-odd MPs who are in government and might be away on government business.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP’s spokesperson on home affairs, says the Rwanda bill will not work because it does not deal with the reasons people come to the UK.

She says her constituency has the highest asylum caseload in Scotland. She refers to a constituent from Sudan granted refugee status. He says he just wants his wife to join him. But there is no safe and legal refugee route from Sudan. So what would MPs do if they were in his position?

Jenrick calls Rwanda bill ‘sophistry’ because it will not stop European court of human rights blocking deportation flights

Robert Jenrick starts by saying the government has made progress tackling illegal immigration.

Small boat arrivals have been cut by a third, he says. In other European countries, illegal immigration is going up. So the PM’s plan is working, he says.

He claims Labour does not believe in border security. This will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century, he says.

He says the strongest possible deterrent is needed. And the Rwanda scheme is the only possible deterrent available in the next 12 months.

He says that, having immersed himself in the detail, he thinks the Rwanda scheme will work.

He says people don’t like having asylum hotels in their towns. Even MPs who are the strongest supporters of open borders object to asylum hotels, he says. He accuses them of hypocrisy.

If Labour were in power, there would be a decade of small boat arrivals, he says.

Turning to the bill, he says there are two main problems with it.

First, it will not stop people appealing as individuals against deportation orders. This will provide legal certainty. And it is necessary for operational reasons, too, he says. That’s because, if individual claims are allowed, the courts will be overwhelmed with claims, and detention facilities will fill up. People will have to be released, and they will disappear. That will bring the system into disrepute.

Meg Hillier (Lab) says she is a former immigration minister. At the end of Labour’s last term in government, one person was being removed every eight minutes, she says. She asks what Jenrick’s record is.

Jenrick says there has been a ten-fold increase in the pace of decision-making. He says Labour is on rocky ground.

Turning back to the bill, he says it is inevitable that the European court of human rights will impose further injunctions to block deportation flights. They have to stop that, he says.

He says the provision in the bill is “sophistry”. He says it is government policy that rule 39 injunctions are binding in international law. MPs are being asked to vote for a provision in the bill (allowing ministers to ignore those injuctions) that it would be illegal to use.

This is the point Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg was getting at earlier. See 1.03pm.

UPDATE: Jenrick said:

It is inevitable … in light of the supreme court’s judgment, that the Strasbourg court will impose further Rule 39 interim measures … we have to stop that, it is a matter of sovereignty for our country that ministers acting on the instructions of parliament do not allow those flights to be delayed.

The provision in the bill is sophistry. It is the express policy of the government that rule 39 injunctions are binding and to ignore them would be a breach of international law.

So, we are being asked to vote for a provision which it would be illegal to use.

Dame Rosie Winterton, the deputy speaker, says many MPs want to speak. She suggests an eight-minute time limit on speeches.

She calls Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, as the first backbencher speaker.

Cooper says MPs should be building cross-party consensus on this.

As Tory MPs jeer, she says they cannot even build consensus on their own side on this.

Sir John Hayes (Con) says Labour MPs think international law trumps the sovereignty of parliament, while MPs on his side believe the opposite.

Cooper says they are debating this bill not because of a judgment from a foreign court, but because of a ruling from the supreme court.

She says the Tory row is not about having a workable solution to his issue.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, a former Tory attorney general, says the past Labour government deemed a whole list of countries safe for asylum seekers.

Cooper says Cox is wrong. What the government is doing with this bill is not just deeming countries safe, but preventing courts from considering the facts. She says the government itself acknowledged in its legal guidance published yesterday that reality cannot be ignored. She quotes this passage from the advice:

Deeming clauses are used frequently in domestic law and there is a rich case law on how they are to be interpreted. In Fowler v Revenue and Customs [2020] UKSC 22, Lord Briggs, writing in a unanimous supreme court judgment, endorsed the position that: “A deeming provision should not be applied so far as to produce unjust, absurd or anomalous results, unless the court is compelled to do so by clear language. But the court should not shrink from applying the fiction created by the deeming provision to the consequences which would inevitably flow from the fiction being real. As Lord Asquith memorably put it in East End Dwellings Co Ltd v Finsbury borough council [1952] AC 109, at 133: ‘The statute says that you must imagine a certain state of affairs; it does not say that having done so, you must cause or permit your imagination to boggle when it comes to the inevitable corollaries of that state of affairs.’”

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