Rishi Sunak has won a crunch vote on his flagship Rwanda policy despite right-wing Conservative factions announcing they would not back emergency “stop the boats” legislation.
MPs approved the Safety of Rwanda Bill at second reading by 313 votes to 269 on Tuesday, giving the UK Government a comfortable winning majority of 44.
The plan would see migrants who are deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally sent to the African nation.
Sunak’s new legislation was introduced after the UK Supreme Court ruled the UK Government’s plans were unlawful.
Justices found there would be a risk of genuine asylum seekers being returned by Rwanda to the home country from where they fled.
The bill makes clear in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers.
The flagship asylum policy was first announced by Boris Johnson back in April 2020, but not a single migrant has been removed to Kigali after a series of legal challenges.
After the vote, the Prime Minister said: “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.”
Tory MPs who had been demanding tougher measures as part of the legislation announced only moments before the crunch vote that they could not support the bill in its current form.
The announcement had looked to put the bill in potential jeopardy and there appeared to be nerves in Downing Street, with climate change minister Graham Stuart flown back from last-ditch talks at the COP28 summit in Dubai to vote for the legislation.
But the outcome proved more comfortable than initially feared for the Tory leader.
The division list showed no Tory MPs voted against the Safety of Rwanda Bill.
There were 38 Conservative MPs listed as having no vote recorded – although this does not automatically equate to an abstention.
The division list released by the Commons authorities indicates that 307 Tory MPs voted for the bill, along with five independent MPs, including Peter Bone, who has the Conservative whip suspended.
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