By Connor Steel
FAREHAM MP Suella Braverman has defended her decision to ‘rebel’ against the Government in a crucial vote on the Rwanda Bill on Wednesday night; saying that this legislation will not “stop the boats” as it passed its 3rd reading stage with a “solid majority” despite huge criticism over two long days of debate and pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The former Home Secretary was one of eleven Conservatives to vote against the legislation, which sought to ‘revive’ a plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda if they attempt to illegally enter the United Kingdom in small boats. This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court in November 2023 that the previous policy was “unlawful” in that particular form.
Ministers have since made changes to legal text and this gave the Government powers to disregard some human right laws, as well as stressing that Rwanda is a “safe country” under UK law. This was introduced to MPs in December and was approved at the first two rounds of voting before Christmas; paving the way for this week’s debates on the subject.
A total of fourteen votes were held on Tuesday and Wednesday alongside hours of debate, which focused on a number of amendments and clauses. The Government were victorious in each of these divisions despite the multiple rebellions from Conservatives in the range of 50-60 MPs; the largest figures since Rishi Sunak came to power back in ‘late’ 2022.
These MPs were looking to toughen this legal framework amidst the concern that flights would still be blocked by court challenges for “months and months”; thus dashing a hope that the first asylum seekers could be in Rwanda before any election. Issue was further raised about the huge costs of this scheme and that the UK would breach international laws.
Tuesday evening saw both Lee Anderson and Brendon Clarke-Smith resign their position as ‘Deputy Chairs’ within the Conservative Party to join the rebellion, alongside a ministerial aide. Ms Braverman also voted against the Government in multiple votes held across these two days alongside high profile MPs such as Robert Jenrick and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
But this rebellion was cut to just eleven when the ‘third reading’ vote was held on Wednesday; the Government sealing victory by 320 to 276 for the majority of forty-four. It means the legislation will move up to the House of Lords within the next two weeks, where it is likely to be heavily scrutinised by peers before being sent back to the Commons for review.
Ms Braverman voted to reject the bill in this division and said via X (formerly Twitter): “The Rwanda Bill will not stop the boats. It leaves us exposed to litigation & the Strasbourg Court. I engaged with the government to fix it but no changes were made. I could not vote for yet another law destined to fail. The British people deserve honesty so I voted against.”
The Fareham MP and fellow rebels are unlikely to face any punishments from the Prime Minister, who led a short press conference on Thursday morning asking the Lords not to “frustrate the will of the people”. But this followed a report that outlined “several” letters of no confidence were summitted against Mr Sunak’s leadership by MPs after the vote ended.
It is not known whether Ms Braverman has submitted any letters or the exact numbers; with 53 required to spark a vote amongst Conservative MPs under ‘party rules’. If it were triggered it would be the third such vote across five years with both Boris Johnson and Theresa May winning a similar battle with colleagues over ‘issues’ including Brexit / PartyGate.
Readers are encouraged to explore media links like BBC News, Sky News and ITV News for fresh developing updates on the breaking story; whilst they can view all the data and graphs of each vote through the Parliament website online.
PICTURED BY ALAMY (2WD064R): MPs prepare to hear result of crucial ‘Rwanda Bill’ vote late on Wednesday night.