Government rejected calls to avoid Pesach clash for Rwanda Bill vote

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Government rejected calls to avoid Pesach clash for Rwanda Bill vote

Crossbench peer Lord Carlile said he was alarmed the Government ignored 'strong representations' to move the Lords vote away from the first night of Pesach

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Migrants being brought on shore by the border force at Dover (Jewish News)
Migrants being brought on shore by the border force at Dover (Jewish News)

The Government rejected pleas to move Monday night’s crunch Rwanda Bill vote to avoid it clashing with the first night of Pesach, it has emerged.

Crossbench peer Lord Carlile of Berriew told the House of Lords that “strong representations” to move the date of the vote were ignored.

He confirmed that some Jewish peers missed the late night vote “on the grounds of conviction and conscience.”

Plans to send some asylum seekers crossing the channel on boats to Rwanda have met with fierce criticism, but the bill passed on Monday when the Lords dropped their opposition.

In a late night back-and-forth between the House of Commons and the Lords the bill was sent back to MPs five times before being allowed to pass.

Rishi Sunak at PMQs

But speaking to peers as amendments to the bill began to be debated in the Lords, Carlile said:”I note that there may well be some Jewish Peers in the House today. 

“Others, I know, are absent on the grounds of conviction and conscience, for today is the first day of the Passover festival—of Pesach, one of the Jewish religion’s most sacred holidays. 

“It is a day when Jewish families gather, sometimes with their friends.

“I should have been at one such event tonight—around a dinner table to pray, to eat, to sing and to retell the story of the exodus, with the help of a narrative liturgy called the Haggadah.

“For those who have been to such a Seder, it is a joyful experience and it brings home to one the importance of the first day of Passover. 

“I am told that strong representations were made, not least by the Labour Party, through the usual channels, to avoid the final stages of the safety of Rwanda Bill being heard today. 

“The Jewish community, although it places great importance on the first and second days of Pessach, would have been willing to be here tomorrow or any other day this week. Unfortunately, that was refused.”

Lord Alex Carlile

In a further rebuke, Carlile added:”I have tried hard to think of a legitimate reason for that refusal. 

“If this debate had taken place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, or next week, it would not have made any material difference to the Government’s position. 
“Nothing that was said by the Prime Minister, who on 11 November displayed, properly and rightly, his devotion to his own religion in public, has justified choosing today for this debate. 

“I take it as an offence to our ambitions for diversity in this country— sermon over.”

He said he was speaking out “as a religiously confused person, born with 100% Jewish blood but brought up in the Church of England by convert parents.”

After the bill passed, PM Sunak called it “not just a step forward but a fundamental change in the global equation on migration”.

He said: “We introduced the Rwanda bill to deter vulnerable migrants from making perilous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit them.

“The passing of this legislation will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.

“Our focus is to now get flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives.”

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called the Rwanda plan an “extortionately expensive gimmick”. 

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