Conservative rebels have warned Theresa May she faces possible defeat today over her axing of a scheme to rescue child refugees and bring them to Britain.
Up to 30 Tory MPs are poised to back an attempt to force the Government to take up offers from local councils eager to accept more unaccompanied children fleeing conflicts.
There was uproar last month when the Home Office suddenly axed the so-called ‘Dubs scheme’ to bring in 3,000 refugees from Europe – when just 350 have arrived.
Now MPs will vote today on a bid to ensure councils in England have been audited to identify whether they have spare capacity.
Ministers have been accused of ignoring evidence that town halls are willing to make thousands more places available, with the right funding.
Speaking with The Independent, Heidi Allen, the Conservative backbencher who has tabled the key amendment, said she was confident of success.
Nine fellow Tories had signed her amendment and a further 20 had indicated they supported her campaign – enough to defeat the Prime Minister.
“The refugee crisis does not end neatly at the end of this financial year so nor must our support for this humanitarian crisis,” Ms Allen said.
“Since the Government announced it would close the scheme, many local authorities have stepped forward to say they were not consulted properly, have capacity and remain on stand by to help. We should take them up on their offers.
“There is strong support amongst our party, the wider House and across our country - this is the right thing to do.”
Ms Allen and her supporters are attempting to amend the Children and Social Work Bill to place a statutory duty on councils to report back to ministers at least once a year.
Prominent former Conservative ministers including Nicky Morgan, Tim Loughton and Anna Soubry are expected to join the revolt.
Faith leaders and actors Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans and Toby Jones will lead a demonstration outside the Commons to increase pressure on the Government.
Announcing the refugee cap at 350 children – under the scheme inspired by Alf Dubs, a former refugee himself – the Home Office insisted there were no more spaces were available to accommodate them.
But freedom of information responses from dozens of UK councils found at least 368 more spaces available and potentially many more.
In the Commons yesterday, Home Office minister Robert Goodwill sparked anger when he told MPs he did “recognise the figures”.
“I suspect that some of the methodology behind them will not bear too much scrutiny,” Mr Goodwill claimed.
Ms Allen praised the Government's record in the Syrian region as “outstanding”, with £2.3bn committed and the promise to resettle 23,000 refugees.
But she said: “The refugee crisis has also affected Europe and thousands of vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children remain in Italy and Greece.
“These countries are overwhelmed and we have a moral and neighbourly duty to help, not least because there are local authorities in the UK who have said they still have capacity.
“Without safe and legal routes, children choose illegal trafficked routes and are already making their way back to Northern France.
“If we do not help downstream, it will become a huge problem in Calais and Dunkirk once again - the camps are already starting to rise from the ashes.”Reuse content