PM Rishi Sunak escaped a close call on Tuesday evening as his “Safety of Rwanda” (Asylum and Immigration) legislation survived its first parliamentary vote in the House of Commons. Holly Patrick of The Independent reported that “large shouts of aye” had echoed throughout the chamber after the bill passed by 313 votes to 269, a majority of 44.
Following a significant step forward in his plan to stop the boats, Sunak took to social media to remind its citizens what the bill’s essence was all about, writing, “The British people should decide who gets to come to this country—not criminal gangs or foreign courts. That’s what this Bill delivers. We will now work to make it law so that we can get flights going to Rwanda and stop the boats.”
The British people should decide who gets to come to this country – not criminal gangs or foreign courts.
That’s what this Bill delivers.
We will now work to make it law so that we can get flights going to Rwanda and stop the boats.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) December 12, 2023
Legislation: No opposition
In the days leading up to the second hearing, Sunak’s premiership was threatened as the right-wing conservatives rebelled and expressed that they would not support the legislation because they think the bill is not ‘firm enough’ to guarantee that the asylum seekers will be deported to Rwanda.
Their decision followed the findings of a ‘Star-Chamber’ group of lawyers who determined that the legislation did not go far enough to deliver on the policy’s aims and that it would require “very significant amendments” to work.
Come Tuesday evening, however, no Tory MPs voted against the bill, to the relief of the Prime Minister. His efforts to persuade the right-wingers by promising to make changes to the bill ahead of the next hearing paid off.
Still, 38 Tory MPs did not cast their votes, with 30 of those MPs deliberately abstaining—including the former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick and Home Secretary Suella Braverman—while the rest were not present in the hearing.
What’s next for Sunak?
Despite the win, Sunak will have to make immense preparations for the legislation’s third hearing next year, as the bill still hasn’t gained confidence from the right-wing Conservatives, in particular the ‘five families’ group composed of the European Research Group (ERG), the New Conservatives, the Common Sense Group, the Conservative Growth Group, and the Northern Research Group.
ERG’s Mark Francois stated that when the bill comes back to the Commons early the following year, he expects the government to accept amendments from their group. He also added that they will keep the option to vote against the bill at the third reading.
Cover Photo: YouTube