Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith’s letter in full as Tory deputy chairs resign over Rwanda bill

Senior Tories resign to rebel over Rwanda bill

Maira Butt
Tuesday 16 January 2024 18:33 GMT
Deputy chairman of the Tory party, Lee Anderson, resigned on Tuesday over the government’s Rwanda policy

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 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 rules”.

In a joint letter, they said it was “important in terms of credibility that we are consistent” on arguing that safeguards must be put in place to ensure the government’s flagship asylum policy is legally watertight.

It comes as MPs voted 529 to 68, majority 461, to reject Conservative Sir Bill Cash’s changes to the Bill, which aimed to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to prevent or delay a person being removed to Rwanda.

Here, we take a look at their joint resignation letter in full:

Dear Prime Minister,

When we were elected in 2019 we promised the public that we would Get Brexit Done and Take Back Control. One of the key issues for the public was our sovereignty and making sure our Parliament and our courts would have supremacy over distant and unaccountable ones abroad. This Conservative Government has taken unprecedented steps to make sure that this is the case.

Globally we see the huge impact of migration, both legal and illegal and that is why it has been so important to bring in measures to bring these numbers down. Our returns policy and working together with partners such as Albania is but one example of how this Government has taken up the challenge, alongside our work against criminal networks. The Rwanda plan represents a clear deterrent and it is noteworthy that other countries are now looking at following our lead.

Lee Anderson was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative party in February 2023
Lee Anderson was appointed deputy chairman of the Conservative party in February 2023 (PA)

The United Kingdom is a welcoming country and we can be very proud of our record taking in refugees and those who wish to contribute to society and make it their home. indeed, many of those who have done so would be the first to recognise that this system also needs to be robust and supported by the principle of fairness. There are far too many who wish to cheat our system and we continue to witness the scourge of the evil people smuggling gangs, with yet more tragic deaths in the Channel.

Whilst we have taken steps to tackle these important issues, we have done so being bound by a Blair-era legal framework and international agreements which are out of date and do not reflect the realities of the twenty first century.

Prime Minister, you pledged to do whatever it takes to stop the boats. You have been clear and resolute over the Rwanda plan and you have stated that you will not let a foreign court block these flights. You have our 100 per cent support and the support of our constituents.

Labour has no plan. They have voted against every single measure we have taken to prevent deaths in the Channel, to crack down on criminal gangs and to return those with no right to be here to their countries of origin. A Labour Government would be a disaster and would lead to an open-door immigration policy. They would scrap the Rwanda scheme in its entirety, bring around 100,000 extra asylum seekers as part of a deal with the European Union and, as they have already demonstrated and signed letters supporting, take foreign national offenders convicted of some of the most heinous crimes off flights back to their countries of origin. They have no interest whatsoever in tackling this issue and neither do the Liberal Democrats or the SNP.

Brendan Clarke-Smith has resigned alongside Lee Anderson
Brendan Clarke-Smith has resigned alongside Lee Anderson (PA)

In the past we have signed amendments, voted for ten minute rule bills and spoken on various occasions in the media to argue that safeguards need to put in place to make sure our legislation is watertight. It is therefore important in terms of credibility that we are consistent with this.

We have already had two pieces of legislation thwarted by a system that does not work in favour of the British people. It is for this reason that we have supported the amendments to the Rwanda Bill. This is not because we are against the legislation, but because like everybody else we want it to work. This task is not an easy one and we appreciate the fine balance that must be struck.

As two people who have been on very different political journeys, one as a person who followed the same path many voters did for the first time at the last General Election and another who has been a lifelong Conservative Party supporter, it has been a huge honour for both of us to serve as Deputy Chairmen of the party. CCHQ has an excellent team and the Chairman is doing a tremendous job in making sure we are in good shape to campaign for a historic fifth term and to prevent the unthinkable prospect of a Labour Government, which would damage this country so much.

Our support for the party and this Government remains as strong as ever and that is why we are so passionate about making this legislation work. However, we fully appreciate that with such important roles there is also the issue of being bound by collective responsibility. It is with this in mind that we fully appreciate 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.

We commend your work on illegal migration so far and your commitment to implementing the will of the British people. The last thing either of us wants to do is to distract from this. We both look forward to making this legislation work, to carrying out the will of the British people and to taking on Labour and winning the next General Election.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Anderson MP

Brendan Clarke-Smith MP

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