Tory deputy chairmen resign over Rwanda Bill vote
Two Tory deputy chairmen have stepped down from their party positions after backing amendments that seek to beef up Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill.
Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith said it was “important in terms of credibility” to be “consistent” in arguing that measures must be put in place to ensure the Government’s flagship asylum policy is legally watertight.
In a joint letter, they told the Prime Minister that “whilst our main wish is to strengthen the legislation, this means that in order to vote for amendments we will therefore need to offer you our resignations from our roles”.
They backed the legislative changes “not because we are against the legislation, but because like everybody else we want it to work”, they said.
Jane Stevenson, a parliamentary private secretary in the Department for Business and Trade, also confirmed she would vote for the amendment.
It comes as Rishi Sunak was dealt a fresh blow to his authority as 68 MPs, including 60 Tories, voted in favour of changes to the Bill put forward by Conservative backbencher Sir Bill Cash.
The amendment seeking to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to block a person being removed to Rwanda was rejected by a majority of 461, but the rebellion gives an indication of the scale of unease within the Conservative Party during an election year.
Around 40 Tory backbenchers including former prime minister Liz Truss, former ministers Suella Braverman, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sir Simon Clarke and former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith earlier met to agree backing the changes.
A Downing Street source said: “The PM accepts their resignation and thanks both Lee and Brendan for their dedication and hard work for the Conservative Party.
“This is the toughest legislation ever brought before Parliament to tackle illegal migration.
“This Bill will make it clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay. We must pass this Bill to deliver what all Conservatives want – a credible plan to stop the boats.”
The Liberal Democrats said the Prime Minister has “again been embarrassed by his own MPs”.
The party’s home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “If the Prime Minister can’t even settle squabbles in his own party, how can he be expected to run the country?”
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