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Rishi Sunak facing growing pressure from Tory right to toughen Rwanda Bill

Rishi Sunak has said he is talking to Tory MPs as he faces growing pressure from right-wingers to toughen up the Rwanda Bill, as deputy chairman Lee Anderson confirmed he will join a possible rebellion.

Mr Anderson on Monday evening signalled he would defy the Government as Tory divisions are set to be dragged back into the open in crunch votes this week.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who is popular among the Tory grassroots, is also understood to have called for asylum seekers to be prevented from lodging individual legal appeals against their removals to Kigali.

Kemi Badenoch
Kemi Badenoch is thought to be popular among the Tory grassroots (Liam McBurney/PA)

As first reported by The Times, she warned Liam Booth-Smith, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, of the consequences of failing to block individual legal challenges last month.

More than 60 Tory MPs have backed right-wing amendments to the Rwanda Bill, which will return to the Commons on Tuesday.

But any attempt by the Prime Minister to placate them would be opposed by Tory moderates.

The amendments gaining support among backbenchers were tabled by Robert Jenrick, who resigned as immigration minister over the legislation, and veteran Tory Sir Bill Cash.

They are seeking to disapply international law from the Bill and curtail asylum seekers’ rights to appeal against flights to Kigali.

Mr Anderson tweeted: “I have signed the Cash & Jenrick amendments.

“I will vote for them.”

If they are selected, the amendments are unlikely to pass as they will not get Labour support but the real test will come at the third reading when rebels may vote against the entire Bill.

The whips’ office said rumours that Mr Anderson, who does not hold a Government role but would be expected to back its positions, had been assured he could back the changes without being sacked were untrue.

Conservative former minister Brendan Clarke-Smith also said he would be supporting the amendments as “I want this legislation to be as strong as possible”.

Asked whether he would keep his job, he told reporters: “We’ll see, it’s not for me to decide.”

On the eve of the Commons showdown, Tory political strategist Isaac Levido warned the 1922 committee of backbenchers: “Let me be clear. ⁠Divided parties fail.”

Mr Sunak on Monday said he was “talking to all my colleagues” as he and his allies seek to avoid another open display of infighting between Conservative factions.

POLITICS Tories
(PA Graphics)

He said there are circumstances under which he would also be prepared to ignore injunctions from Strasbourg – so-called Rule 39 orders – blocking flights from taking off to the east African nation.

“I know everyone is frustrated — I’m frustrated about the situation — and they want to see an end to the legal merry-go-round,” he told reporters during a visit to Essex.

“I’m confident that the Bill we have got is the toughest that anyone has ever seen and it will resolve this issue once and for all.”

Speaking to GB News, he said: “I don’t think Strasbourg will intervene because of the checks and balances in our system, but of course there will be individual circumstances that people will want us to consider on the facts.

“If you’re asking me are there circumstances in which I’m prepared to ignore those rule 39s, then, yes, of course there are.”

The Tory leader said he was “determined to get this new legislation on to the statute book so we can get our Rwanda scheme up and running”.

He said “good progress” had been made on his pledge to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel, adding: “In order to finish the job, we do need a deterrent like Rwanda and that is why I’m trying to do everything I can to get this Bill – which by the way is the toughest piece of migration legislation that Parliament has ever seen – on to the statute books.”

The scale of the small boats problem which the policy seeks to tackle was reinforced on Sunday when five more people died trying to cross the Channel from France.

Three leaders of groups on the Tory right, Mark Francois, Sir John Hayes and Danny Kruger, have said they will oppose it if Mr Sunak does not bow to their demands.

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary and a rival to Mr Sunak, has said she will vote against the Bill if there are “no improvements”, having previously abstained.

If the rebels were successful, blocking the Prime Minister’s flagship Bill would trigger fresh chaos, which might make opponents toe the line to let it pass.

Any caving to right-wingers’ demands will “cause problems” for centrist Tories, they warned.

Ahead of a meeting of the One Nation group of Conservative MPs in Parliament, former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland told the PA news agency: “I think in a nutshell, the Government would be best advised not to accept any of the amendments from my colleagues on the right, because the Bill then will cause a problem for us here.

“So we’re hoping that common sense will prevail.”

One Nation chairman Damian Green said: “We’ve made our position clear that we, for all our reservations, we voted for the Bill at second reading. And we want the Government to carry it through unamended.”

Mr Sunak has previously argued that moving a further “inch” on the Bill would risk the Rwandan government quitting the deal.