Plans to send migrants to countries like Rwanda for processing could be blocked after a Lords rebellion.
Amid signs ministers are close to agreeing the “offshoring” of asylum seeker processing to Rwanda, the Lords have amended the proposed laws to give Parliament the right to veto any country it deems inappropriate, unsafe or too expensive. It is estimated the plan could cost £100,000 per asylum seeker.
The peers, including former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler and former Tory party chair Baroness Warsi, backed by a majority of 176 to 153 an amendment to the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill that MPs and Lords must approve the “appropriateness, safety and cost” of the chosen countries.
It was one of a dozen rebel amendments passed by the Lords which threaten a major showdown with the Commons and Government. It is the second time the Upper House has overruled the Commons on the Bill, which now has to go back to MPs to decide whether to reverse them.
The Government is running out of time as MPs and the Lords are in recess until after Easter, leaving just a few days for the “ping-pong” legislative battle to be resolved before Parliament prorogues. The Government could be forced to compromise or risk losing the Bill if the Lords refuse to back down.
A Tory party source accused the Lords of adopting Brexit-style tactics by trying to intervene in issues such as negotiating offshoring contracts that were the responsibility of the executive.
‘This is Brexit territory’
“This is Brexit territory. This is tying the hands of an elected government. How can a government go and negotiate with another government and say: ‘Actually sorry I cannot do this because my parliament has said this is where the red line is,'” said the source.
“You can’t negotiate like that. Government to government relations are an executive power for a reason. [The House of Lords] only ever say that on things they don’t like. They never say: ‘The Government is giving support to Ukraine but hang on, ‘Parliament should have had a say on that.'”
Under the plans, the Government would fly asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and settlement. Britain would pay Rwanda millions as part of any deal.
The plans are designed to act as a deterrent to the record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel, who are incentivised by the belief that once in the UK, it is very difficult to remove them.
Albania and Ghana are among countries previously named as involved in early discussions to take migrants from the UK, but which have subsequently declared that they want no part of such a scheme.
Lord Harrington, the refugees minister, admitted to LBC that he was in the dark about the proposals to send migrants to Rwanda for processing, saying no-one in the Home Office where he works had told him about it.
He then appeared to shoot the idea down, saying there was “no possibility” of sending them to Rwanda for processing.