Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda legislation has been defended by Cabinet minister Michael Gove as “tough and robust” after a fresh blow was dealt by a legal assessment for the Tory right.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he is “confident” of Conservative support for the plans and insisted they are not “contemplating” a general election if they lose Tuesday’s vote.
He said they will “listen” to the arguments made by MPs after Sir Bill Cash signalled his legal assessment for the Tory right concludes the Bill is not fit for purpose.
The veteran Conservative, who chaired legal examination being waited on by hardliners, suggested the Bill is not “sufficiently watertight”.
The Prime Minister is relying on the legislation to revive his asylum plans after they were deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court over concerns for refugees’ safety.
MPs on the Conservative left are also weighing up whether they can back it, and a defeat will deal a major blow to Mr Sunak’s credibility in office.
Mr Gove told Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “We take seriously the views of colleagues, particularly eminent colleagues like Sir Bill who have deep and profound legal experience.
“But we believe this Bill is tough and robust, and more than that, you can look, you can read down the Bill, compare it to the Supreme Court judgment, and you can see that this Bill will ensure that all of the reasons that were used in the past to prevent people going to Rwanda are dealt with.”
He argued that other lawyers have deemed the legislation “sound” although one legal assessment for the Government gives it a “50% at best” chance of success.
Mr Gove insisted that they were not thinking about launching a general election if they fail to get the Bill through Parliament.
“No, we’re not contemplating that because I’m confident that when people look at the legislation and have a chance to reflect they will recognise this is a tough but also proportionate measure,” he told Sky.
Labour will whip to vote against the Bill, meaning a rebellion by just 28 Tories could deliver a humiliating defeat as Mr Sunak battles to revive his £290 million scheme to send people who arrive on small boats to Rwanda.
Sir Bill wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that they had been considering whether the “wording is sufficiently watertight to meet the Government’s policy objectives”.
“At present it does not,” he said. “Our report, I hope, will be helpful to the Government in deciding whether the Bill in its current form is fit for purpose or will require further amendment, even by the Government itself.”