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Rwanda bill – live: Battle over Rishi Sunak’s asylum plan ramps up as Lords reject MPs’ plea

Related video: MP who made Rayner complaint unable to explain what offence he thinks she committed

The House of Lords has snubbed fresh ministerial calls to back down in the tense stand-off over Rishi Sunak’s asylum plan – and insisted on a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as safe until promised protections are in place.

Peers voted by 245 votes to 208, majority 37. The fresh setback for means the wrangling will continue, after MPs again rejected amendments to the government’s flagship Rwanda Bill, renewing their battle with the Lords.

Peers had on Tuesday voted to amend the legislation for a third time, but MPs voted on Wednesday afternoon against four key amendments, including one to exempt asylum-seekers who aided UK troops overseas, such as Afghan special forces, from deportation to Rwanda.

Downing Street ruled out making concessions on its Safety of Rwanda Bill.

The government had been reportedly considering concessions, including exemptions for Afghans who assisted British forces, but the prime minister’s official spokesman ruled out any such move.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer accused “billionaires” Rishi Sunak and Tory peer Lord Ashcroft of “smearing a working class woman”, his deputy, Angela Rayner.

The pair have criticised Ms Rayner over the sale of her former council house, suggesting she may have failed to pay capital gains tax or given false information.

Also at Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak refused to rule out cuts to the NHS and state pensions to fund a £46bn national insurance giveaway.

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Lords keep deadlock going in snubbing calls to back down

The House of Lords has snubbed ministerial calls to back down – and insisted by 245 votes to 208, majority 37, on a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as safe until promised protections are in place.

The fresh government setback means yet more wrangling at Westminster over the proposed law that aims to clear the way to send asylum-seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Kigali.

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 19:38

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Watch: Tory MP squirms refusing to say why he reported Rayner to police

Tory MP squirms while refusing to say why he reported Angela Rayner to police

The Tory MP who contacted police about Angela Rayner continued to refuse to say what he thinks she has done wrong. James Daly, the Conservative Party deputy chairman, contacted police about allegations surrounding the deputy Labour leader’s living arrangements. Appearing on Sky News on Wednesday, he refused to say what he thought Rayner had done wrong despite being the one to make the complaint and accused fellow panellist Sir Chris Bryant of “shouting”. It came after he failed to answer a similar question three times during an awkward exchange on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme yesterday.

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 19:50

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Minister urges peers to give in and pass Bill

Peers have been urged to relent in their deadlock with the government over the Safety of Rwanda Bill.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson said allowing the Bill to pass now would “send a clear signal that if you come to the United Kingdom illegally you will not be able to stay”.

As MPs rejected four amendments to the Bill, Mr Tomlinson said: “We have made it abundantly clear that our priority is to stop the boats, we simply cannot stand by and allow people-smugglers to control who enters our country and to see more lives being lost at sea.

“We have an obligation to the public and to those who are being exploited by criminal gangs to stop this vile trade and to protect our borders.

“Letting this Bill pass now will send a clear signal that if you come to the United Kingdom illegally you will not be able to stay.”

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 19:35

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Rwanda deportation fears ‘will hit armed forces’

Britain’s armed forces will struggle to recruit local allies if the government allows Afghan veterans to be deported to Rwanda, Labour has said.

MPs and peers have urged ministers to ensure those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters, are exempt from removal to Rwanda under the terms of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock told the Commons: “We owe a debt of honour and gratitude to the Afghans who so bravely fought alongside British troops and the idea that we might send them to Rwanda is simply unconscionable.

“But Lord Browne’s amendment is not only driven by a moral imperative, it is also underpinned by our national interest and by military logic for the simple and obvious reason that the ability of our armed forces to recruit local allies will be severely constrained if this Bill passes unamended.”

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson earlier sought to downplay concerns, saying: “This Government recognises the commitment and responsibility that comes with combat veterans, whether our own or those who have shown courage by serving alongside.

“I repeat: we will not let them down.”

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 19:10

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Tory minister says she will not be reading Liz Truss’s new book: ‘Not interested in that’

Tory minister says she will not be reading Liz Truss book: ‘Not interested in that’

Treasury minister Laura Trott has revealed she will not be reading former prime minister Liz Truss’s new book. The Tory minister said she had previously read a book Harry Cole and Ed James produced about Ms Truss, but confirmed she will not be reading Ten Years to Save the West. She told Kay Burley on Sky News today (17 April) : “That’s probably enough Liz Truss books for me.” When asked why, she replied: “I am not interested in revisiting that period if I am honest, Kay.” The book is said to feature several bizarre revelations from Ms Truss’s short time in No 10.

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 18:30

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MPs set up fresh fight with Lords as they reject Rwanda Bill amendments

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 17:55

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Ex-Tory minister slams ‘hypocritical’ focus on Angela Rayner’s tax affairs

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 17:46

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Watch: Nigel Farage says he will make big political decision soon

Nigel Farage says he is going to make big political decision in ‘next few weeks’

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 17:05

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MPs reject protection for Afghan heroes from Rwanda deportation

MPs voted 302 to 244, majority 58, to reject Lords’ amendment 10D, which would exempt agents, allies and employees of the UK overseas, such as Afghans who fought alongside the British armed forces, from being removed to Rwanda.

It was the fourth amendment by peers in a row that MPs rejected.

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 16:45

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Promise Afghan war heroes won’t be sent to Rwanda, pleads Buckland

Ministers should give assurances that Afghans who served alongside UK armed forces will not be deported to Rwanda, a Conservative former justice secretary has said.

Sir Robert Buckland told the Commons: “I do think that there is still a class of people who have served this country, who have been brave and have exposed themselves to danger, who have not yet been dealt with.

“Many of them are in Pakistan, and I think that it would have been helpful to have perhaps seen an amendment in lieu to deal with that point, as (the minister) did with modern day slavery, for which I thank him.”

Sir Robert also insisted that checks on ensuring Rwanda was a safe country were “not a wrecking amendment”.

The Independent has campaigned for Afghan war heroes who served alongside British forces to be given refuge in the UK.

Jane Dalton17 April 2024 16:30

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