Rwanda bill – live: Rishi Sunak to resist Lord’s amendment to help Afghan heroes as no guarantee of fights by spring


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Rishi Sunak has doubled down on his refusal to exempt Afghan heroes who served with British forces from being deported to Rwanda.

A No 10 spokesman said on Wednesday that the government would not be making any concessions on the Rwanda bill after the House of Lords last night voted in favour of the move.

The defiant upper chamber refused to cave to ministers’ demands and sent the flagship Rwanda plan back to the Commons.

Peers are also demanding the set up of a monitoring committee to assess whether Rwanda is safe before the government sends asylum seekers there.

Downing Street also on Thursday was unable to recommit to the prime minister’s pledge to get flights to Rwanda off the ground by the spring.

The spokesman said: “I’m not going to get ahead of the bill passing, which obviously we’ve seen again last night has continued to be held up.

“We’re working at pace to ensure these flights leave as soon as possible. It’s now incumbent on the Lords to pass this Bill such that we can trigger the final planning phases and ultimately stop the boats.”

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Westminster sleaze and scandals: All the MPs who are suspended or have lost the whip

Another day in Westminster, another party whip suspended or withdrawn – as allegations of sleaze, dishonesty or failure to uphold parliamentary standards land yet another MP in hot water.

Mark Menzies, the Tory MP for Fylde and a government trade envoy, is under investigation over allegations that he misused campaign funds and abused his position after making a late-night phone call saying he’d been locked up by “bad people” demanding thousands of pounds.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 17:00

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ICYMI: Keir Starmer demands police probe into suspended Tory MP over ‘bad people’ payoff claims

Mark Menzies lost the Conservative whip after reportedly using thousands of pounds given by donors to fund medical expenses and making a late-night call to a 78-year-old aide asking for help because he had been locked up by “bad people” demanding money for his release.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 16:30

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Suspended MP Menzies loses trade envoy roles

Suspended MP Mark Menzies has been suspended from his role as one of Rishi Sunak’s trade envoys to several South American countries.

Mr Menzies has lost his unpaid, voluntary role aimed at boosting trade with Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina, a No 10 spokesperson said.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 16:00

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Post Office staff had ‘bunker mentality’ towards press, lawyer tells inquiry

A Post Office lawyer has said there was a “bunker mentality” among staff in relation to the media’s coverage of the Horizon IT system.

Rodric Williams, who joined the organisation as a litigation lawyer in 2012, was asked at the Horizon Inquiry on Thursday about an email sent to the Post Office by journalist Nick Wallis in 2014.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 15:45

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Scotland ditches target of reducing emission by 75% by 2030

The Scottish government is ditching a climate change target committing it to reducing emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, the country’s net zero secretary confirmed.

Mairi McAllan told MSPs in a statement at Holyrood: “In this challenging context of cuts, UK backtracking, we accept the Climate Change Committee’s recent re-articulation that this parliament’s interim 2030 target is out of reach. We must now act to chart a course to 2045 at a pace and scale that is feasible, fair and just.

“With this in mind, I can today confirm that, working with parliament on a timetable, the Scottish government will bring forward expedited legislation to address matters raised by the Climate Change Committee, and ensure our legislative framework better reflects the reality of long-term climate policymaking.

“The narrowly drawn bill will retain our legal commitment to 2045 alongside annual reporting on progress, while introducing a target approach based on five-yearly carbon budgets.”

Mairi McAllan (PA Archive)

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 15:22

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University chiefs to get security service Cobra briefing on hostile states

University leaders will be briefed by the security services after a government review found their institutions were being “targeted” by hostile states, the deputy prime minister has said.

The government ordered a review of protections for higher education in its refreshed Integrated Review of foreign and security policy last year amid concerns that hostile states, and particularly China, were gaining undue influence over the sector.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 15:09

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Starmer: Government should be focusing on stopping the boats arriving in first place

Sir Keir Starmer has said the government’s Rwanda scheme would not work regardless of how asylum seekers travelled to the east Africa country amid reports the RAF could be used.

Asked whether he thought RAF aircraft should be used to deport asylum seekers, he told broadcasters: “I think the government should be concentrating on how they are going to stop small boats from arriving in the first place rather than wasting time and money, taxpayers’ money, on a gimmick, however they travel to Rwanda.

“There are tens of thousands of people waiting to have their claims processed and the government is talking about removing a few hundred.

“More people came in one day last week than this entire scheme will remove under its current provisions.

“It is a gimmick, it won’t work, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. Let’s do what matters, smash the gangs that are running this trade in the first place.”

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 14:29

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No 10 declines to recommit to getting Rwanda flights in the air by spring

Downing Street has declined to recommit to the prime minister’s spring deadline to get deportation flights off the ground to Rwanda.

Rishi Sunak’s spokesman told reporters: “Our intention is to get this passed on Monday such that we can then set out the timetable for getting flights off as soon as possible.”

He said the timetable was initially set out in November “but obviously the bill has continued to be delayed”.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the bill passing, which obviously we’ve seen again last night has continued to be held up.

“We’re working at pace to ensure these flights leave as soon as possible. It’s now incumbent on the Lords to pass this Bill such that we can trigger the final planning phases and ultimately stop the boats.”

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 13:10

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Government won’t be making concessions on Rwanda bill – No 10

The government will not be making concessions on changes to the Rwanda bill requested by the House of Lords, Downing Street has indicated.

Peers on Wednesday again supported an exemption from removal for those who worked with the UK military or government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters.

Asked whether ministers could move on that, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “The amendment is unnecessary.

“We already have safe and legal routes for people in this category. It’s one of the most generous safe and legal routes that we have in fact.

“We are proud that we have relocated over 16,000 people to safety through the scheme so far.”

He said the amendment would “create an unnecessary and dangerous incentive for these people to travel here illegally, which is precisely what this bill is trying to avoid.”

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 13:08

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ICYMI: Defiant Lords back Afghan heroes and refuse to pass Sunak’s plan to deport asylum seekers

Peers voted on Wednesday night in favour of an amendment to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill that would exempt Afghan heroes who supported UK troops overseas from being deported.

Matt Mathers18 April 2024 12:37

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