Uncle of Tory minister Tom Tugendhat accuses Government of acting like ‘despots’ over Rwanda

The uncle of a Tory Home Office minister has accused the Government of acting like “despots” as he voiced his disbelief over the Rwanda plan.

Lord Tugendhat, whose nephew is Tom Tugendhat, was among the Lords who savaged Rishi Sunak’s Safety of Rwanda Bill. The former Tory MP said: I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party for some 66 years and I find it quite extraordinary that the party of Margaret Thatcher should be introducing a bill of this kind.”

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The Conservative grandee said Mrs Thatcher would never have supported legislation which undermined the rule of law. He went on: “What we’re being asked to do really represents the sort of behaviour, My Lords, that the world associates with despots and autocracies, not with an established democracy, not with the Mother of Parliaments. It is a Bill we should not even be asked to confront, let alone pass.”

Ministers are desperately trying to get Parliament to declare Rwanda a safe country to send asylum seekers to, despite the Supreme Court ruling in November that it’s not. Senior church leaders were also among those demanding sweeping changes to the Bill that could effectively derail it.

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The Bishop of Southwark told the House of Lords:  Legislating Rwanda as a safe country does not necessarily make it so for the potentially vulnerable people who might be sent there.” He backed calls for the project to be delayed until the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – who has criticised the scheme – agrees it is safe.

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Calling for courts to be given more power to intervene – a key thing the Government is trying to strip away – the Bishop said: “Courts and tribunals must be able to make a judgment about the safety of Rwanda based on the consideration of the facts. We are not primarily discussing the suitability of Rwanda. We are discussing its safety for people who by definition have highly complex lives and circumstances.”

The House of Lords heard demands for a two-year limit of the law declaring Rwanda safe. Former Tory minister Viscount Hailsham, who sat in the Commons as Douglas Hogg, said claiming Rwanda is a safe country to send asylum seekers to is “manifestly untrue”.

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And former top judge Lord Kerr said the Bill shouldn’t come into force until Rwanda “can be seen to be safe”. Tory Lord Garnier said: A Parliament can pass a law saying that all dogs are cats, but it doesn’t make all dogs cats. Parliament can pass a law saying that Rwanda is a safe country, but It doesn’t make it a safe country.”

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