Politics

A vote on Rishi Sunak’s emergency Rwanda bill should not be seen as a matter of confidence in his leadership, a government minister has said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told Sky News he believed “all Conservatives” would vote for the bill when it is put to the Commons next week – despite it not having the support of Robert Jenrick, who dramatically resigned from his role as immigration minister on Wednesday night.

The minister sought to play down Tory divisions over the bill in the wake of Mr Jenrick’s resignation.

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Asked if the vote on the bill would be treated as a matter of confidence in the Mr Sunak’s leadership, Mr Heaton-Harris said that was a decision for the whips but added: “I can’t see why it would need to be because I think all Conservatives will vote for it.”

“The policy of stopping the boats is something that actually does unite the Conservative Party,” he said.

“There’s elements in this bill where people would like to go further… there’s also people that say this goes too far.

“I actually think this bill strikes the right balance. It is a really strong group of measures to try and stop the boats in a completely legal and justifiable way.

“And I think it will work.”

Mr Jenrick, who has increasingly taken a hardline stance on migration issues, quit the frontbench on Wednesday evening, saying he could not continue in his position when he had such “strong disagreements” over the bill – which he branded a “triumph of hope over experience”.

On Thursday morning Mr Jenrick was replaced with two individuals after the government carved the role into Minister for Illegal Migration and Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery.

Michael Tomlinson was appointed Minister for Illegal Migration while Tom Pursglove was moved into the post of Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery.

Robert Courts is now the new solicitor general after Mr Tomlinson was moved from the role.

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Jenrick’s resignation letter and PM’s response in full
Sunak facing political fight of his life as he wars with right wing Tories

The government published its long-awaited Rwanda bill just a day after Home Secretary James Cleverly visited Rwanda to sign a new treaty that was aimed at reviving the government’s troubled plan to send asylum seekers to the African country.

The bill compels UK judges to treat the east African nation as a safe country for asylum seekers after the Supreme Court ruled the scheme unlawful on the grounds people could be returned to their home countries and face harm, under a process known as refoulement.

The bill was designed to appease both wings of the Conservative Party – the right wing and the more moderate One Nation group – by allowing the UK to “disapply” aspects of the Human Rights Act but not the legislation in its entirety.

The Tory right, including Mr Jenrick and former home secretary Suella Braverman, wanted the bill to disregard the entire Human Rights Act with regard to asylum cases as well as include extra powers to dismiss challenges under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Mr Sunak made clear in his response to Mr Jenrick’s resignation later that Rwanda was at risk of walking away from the agreement if the bill ignored the European Court of Human Rights in its entirety.

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