Ministers confident of spring Rwanda flights

Ministers confident of spring Rwanda flights

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill returns to the Commons on Wednesday

Ministers are confident deportation flights to Rwanda will take off this spring, despite the legislation underpinning the plan remaining in parliamentary deadlock.

Treasury minister Laura Trott said there were “many definitions of spring” when pressed about a timeline for getting planes off the runway.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill returns to the Commons on Wednesday, after the House of Lords again pressed demands for revisions, prolonging the parliamentary wrangling.

MPs are likely to reject these changes, meaning the legislation will be sent back to the Lords again.

The legislation seeks to clear the way to send asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats on a one-way flight to Kigali.

But it will only receive royal assent and become law once agreement between Parliament’s two houses is reached.

Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” a key pledge of his leadership, and sees the Rwanda scheme as a vital deterrent to Channel crossings.

The Prime Minister has previously said he hopes the flights can be begin before the end of spring.

Asked if this was still the case, Ms Trott told Sky News: “We will be ready for flights to take off in the spring when the legislation passes.”

She added: “I think there are lots of definitions of spring but we are hoping to get them up and running as quickly as possible.”

The Bill and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the Lords insisted on an amendment to restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts in relation to the safety of Rwanda and enable them to intervene.

Peers also renewed their demand for the Bill to have “due regard” for international and key domestic laws, including human rights and modern slavery legislation.

In addition, they backed a requirement that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country until an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in the treaty are fully implemented and remain in place.

An exemption from removal for those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters, secured renewed support.

The Lords’ insistence on the amendments ensures a third round of “ping-pong” over the Bill, where legislation is batted between the two Houses until they agree on its final wording.

The Upper House has set aside time for the Bill to return on Wednesday afternoon after MPs debate it.

The Prime Minister could use RAF Voyager aircraft for Rwanda deportation flights after the Home Office failed to find an airline that would charter the flights, The Times reported.

Downing Street has drawn up plans to order the Ministry of Defence to repurpose at least one of the leased aircraft for this purpose, according to the newspaper.

Asked whether it would be appropriate to use RAF aircraft, Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “My priority is to stop the boats.

“I said this very clearly when I became Prime Minister and right now we are trying to get the Bill through Parliament in the face of enormous opposition from the Labour Party.”

He added: “We must stop the boats because it is a matter of fairness.”

Nearly two years after then-home secretary Dame Priti Patel first announced the deal with Rwanda, Labour attacked the Tories over the plan, noting that more than 75,000 migrants have made the journey since then.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “On the two-year anniversary of the Rwanda farce, ministers need to be honest with the public about how much time and taxpayers’ money has been wasted.

“They were warned repeatedly about the cost and weaknesses of the Rwanda scheme.

“Meanwhile the serious problems with our border security, with criminal gangs and rising asylum hotel bills have all got worse and worse. Yet all the Government has done is to write more and more cheques to Rwanda. Talk about fiddling as Rome burns.

“The Prime Minister must end this farce and instead back Labour’s plan to boost our border security and fix the asylum chaos.”

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