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Rwanda bill amendments rejected by Commons as parliamentary ping pong begins

The House of Commons has rejected the House of Lords' first attempt to amend the Safety of Rwanda Bill - with the legislation sent back to the upper chamber.

A total of 10 amendments were put before MPs, but Conservatives voted each of them down.

Among the changes proposed by peers was scrapping the government's plan to force judges to consider Rwanda as a safe country.

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They also want to allow politicians and judges to consider evidence of whether Rwanda is safe - something which is prevented by the proposed law.

Another change suggested would prevent those who had served with or for the British armed forces from being sent to Rwanda if they arrived illegally in the UK.

The Commons debated the amendments for around four hours before voting began, with both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer both in attendance when divisions began.

MPs on opposition benches spoke in support of the amendments proposed by the upper chamber.

Labour's shadow Home Office minister, Stephen Kinnock, said: "They each serve to make this shambolic mess of a Bill marginally less absurd, and as I will come to in a second, they would serve only to put in statute what ministers have actually promised from that despatch box."

There was also opposition from the SNP's Joanna Cherry, who said: "Based on the evidence I have read, and the evidence the Joint Committee on Human Rights has heard so far, based on what I heard and saw on the ground in Kigali, I remain of the view that Rwanda is still not a safe country for asylum seekers."

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The Green Party's Caroline Lucas called the bill an "extraordinary and profound attack" on constitutional democracy.

And the Conservative former minister Sir Jeremy Wright said he was "troubled" by the "absolutist, if not eternalist, nature of the wording of the bill".

Tory former minister Sir Robert Buckland said he was minded to support some of the amendments, and indeed voted in favour of the second and fourth.

But there was support for the government from its backbenches during the debate.

Sir Bill Cash said one of the amendments threatened parliamentary sovereignty and was "one of the most serious and dangerous clauses that I have seen in recent statutory history".

And Richard Graham said the amendments were "not relevant" to what the government was trying to do.

The Lords are set to consider the bill with its removed amendments on Wednesday.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson emphasised the government's belief that Rwanda is safe, following the agreement of a new treaty.

This sought to address concerns raised by the Supreme Court when they ruled previous legislation incompatible with human rights laws.

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Mr Tomlinson said: "It is the treaty, the bill and the published evidence pack which together demonstrate that Rwanda is safe for relocated individuals and that the government's approach is tough but fair and lawful.

"The government is clear that we've assessed Rwanda to be safe and we've published evidence to substantiate that point."