Government suffers clean sweep of seven Rwanda defeats in House of Lords

Rwanda flights are set to be delayed as the Lords inflicted a series of heavy defeats on Rishi Sunak’s landmark legislation, pushing back the passage of his Bill until after Easter.

Peers refused to pass the legislation and voted by majorities of between 30 and 55 to reinstate seven amendments to the legislation. It will now have to be considered again by MPs when they return from their Easter recess on April 15. The Commons had on Monday rejected all 10 of the Lords’ previous amendments.

The delay of nearly a month in the legislation is likely to push back the first deportation flights from May into June although the Government insisted last night the plan remained “on track”. Ministers still hope to get the first flights off this spring, which technically ends on June 20.

Last night, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, attacked Labour for trying to delay the Bill and called for an “end to the talking” so the lives of migrants could be saved.

“While Labour and their allies try anything to delay, disrupt or destroy that plan, people are risking their lives in the hands of people who don’t care if they die as long as they pay. The talking needs to end so we can get on with the job of saving lives and stopping the boats,” he said.

The Bill is central to the Prime Minister’s pledge to stop the boats and his electoral fortunes by getting the first deportation flights off to Rwanda after nearly two years’ delay from legal challenges.

The Home Office has identified 150 migrants for the first two deportation flights who will be handed their deportation notices within days of the Bill gaining royal assent. They could be flown to Rwanda in six to ten weeks following the appeals process required by law. Ministers are aiming to deport 5,000 in the first year.


Tory MPs voiced frustration at the delay on Wednesday night. One senior backbencher said: “The Prime Minister called this emergency legislation almost four months ago. If this is what emergency legislation looks like, I’d hate to think what business as usual is.

“If the Government was serious it would keep the Lords up through the night and do continuous round upon round of ping pong. Going slow is a disgrace when the situation in the Channel is so bad.”

Another former minister said: “The Bill is now programmed to come back to us and be done and dusted by the end of the first week back after Easter. But I am surprised the Government didn’t quicken the pace to get it through before the Easter recess.”

One Tory critic of the Prime Minister suggested it was a deliberate tactic as Mr Sunak would not want his Rwanda policy to be seen to be failing in May at a time of maximum danger for his leadership following the local elections.

Rishi Sunak's controversial plan to deport migrants on flights to Rwanda is still to get off the ground
Rishi Sunak's controversial plan to deport migrants on flights to Rwanda is still to get off the ground - JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

The Lords’ defeats provide the biggest confrontation between the Upper House and Commons since Mr Sunak became Prime Minister. Only one Tory peer rebelled - Lord Clarke, the former chancellor - but the Government failed to get enough of its peers out to beat off Labour, Lib Dem and crossbench lords.

It came as 450 migrants crossed the Channel on Wednesday, the highest number so far this year. It took the total this year to nearly 4,000, similar to last year’s total at the same point.

Government sources indicated ministers will resist the Lords’ proposed changes to the Bill after branding them “wrecking” amendments.

“The Government still believes the Bill is in the place it needs to be,” said a source. “Any amendments that delay, disrupt or sabotage the Bill are not going to fly and we want to fly.”

On track

A No 10 source said: “We’re very much on track with the timetable for Royal Assent and therefore delivery regardless of whether it wraps up before or after Easter.”

One set of amendments reinstated a requirement for the Bill to have “due regard” for international law and restored the jurisdiction of domestic courts and their ability to take into account the safety of Rwanda.

A second set required Rwanda to be independently shown to be safe before flights can take off. A third set added protections for victims of modern slavery, children in disputed age cases and exempted Afghans who worked with the British from deportation to Rwanda.

Lord Coaker, Labour’s frontbench spokesman on home affairs, accused the Government of flouting constitutional convention in rejecting “carte blanche” changes made by the Lords to the Rwanda Bill.

He said the Government was in “chaos” and “shambles” over the handling of its Rwanda policy after ditching plans to bring the Bill back next week instead of delaying it until after Easter. “That’s not our fault it’s coming back after Easter, it’s the Government’s own management of its own timetable,” he said.

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07:40 PM GMT

Thanks for joining

Thank you for joining our coverage of a dramatic day in Westminster as Rishi Sunak’s Government suffered seven defeats in the Lords as the Rwanda Bill returned to the upper chamber.

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back early tomorrow to guide you through the latest.

07:37 PM GMT

A full house of defeats for the Government

Rishi Sunak’s Government has suffered a clean sweep of defeats over the Rwanda Bill.

The seventh and final amendment was backed by 248 peers to 209.

07:24 PM GMT

Make that a sixth defeat

A sixth Lords amendment, on modern slavery protections, has been supported this evening - this time there are 251 ‘contents’, 214 ‘not contents’.

07:14 PM GMT

Fifth Rwanda defeat for the Government

A fifth amendment has won the support of the Lords, marking a fifth defeat for the Government to the tune of 249 to 219.

06:58 PM GMT

Lord Sharpe: Rwanda has ‘systems in place’ to support vulnerable

Lord Sharpe of Epsom took aim at suggestions there were “not very many” asylum cases where age was disputed, noting more than 800 supposed child refugees per year were later found to be adults.

The Home Office minister said the Rwandan government “has systems in place” to support vulnerable arrivals, and had a “proven track record” of working with domestic and international partners including the UNHCR.

06:53 PM GMT

Government ‘driving coach and horses’ through Modern Slavery Act

Lord Coaker, a shadow Labour home affairs spokesman, accused the Tories of “driving a coach and horses” through the Modern Slavery Act.

“I am absolutely astonished that Conservative Members of Parliament in the other place, Conservative peers and others are driving a coach and horses of what I say as a proud Labour minister was one of the proudest achievements of the government which happened to be a Conservative government when it passed the Modern Slavery Act.

“It was a flagship piece of legislation, it was a piece of legislation that has been copied across the world. And in bill after bill over the years, we’ve seen as a gradual erosion of some of the fundamental principles which drive it.”

06:35 PM GMT

We have a duty to support child refugees, says Lord Dubs

Lord Dubs, the Labour peer, spoke to support an amendment to the Rwanda Bill:

This House has consistently supported the rights of children in relation to asylum. My Lords, these are the most vulnerable people in the whole of the asylum system, and if a mistake is made the consequences would be out of all proportion to the damage if a mistake is made in the other direction.

That is to say to send a child wrongly assessed as being an adult to Rwanda would be an appalling dereliction of our responsibilities to vulnerable young people.

If the mistake is made the other way and one more person stays here, I honestly don’t think it’ll make much difference, because the majority of asylum seekers in any case will not be sent to Rwanda even if this legislation would go through. It’s such a modest proposal, but it would be in-keeping with the traditions of this House to support unaccompanied child refugees.

06:17 PM GMT

Labour attack advert accuses Sunak of ‘Rwanda scam’

06:15 PM GMT

Mutinous MPs should ‘grow up and pull together’

Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, told journalists that Rishi Sunak stressed the “long list of successes” that the Government had achieved in a bid to rally MPs, Genevieve Holl-Allen reports from Committee Corridor:

Mr Gullis said that there had been a broad range of MPs from both wings of the Tory Party that had attended the 1922 Committee meeting to support the Prime Minister.

He said: “The general message was, here’s a long list of things, here’s a long list of successes that we’ve had, and the tiny minority that’s seeking to continually undermine and brief against him, you’re not briefing against him and hurting him, you’re hurting everyone in the parliamentary party and therefore it’s time to grow up and actually pull together.

“Grow up was my words not his words just so you know,” he added.

06:13 PM GMT

A fourth defeat for the Government in the Lords

Peers voted 263 to 233 to support a further amendment to the Rwanda Bill on the status of the African nation as a safe country.

06:05 PM GMT

Peers vote for a fourth time...

... and, at this rate, a fourth defeat would not be a surprise.

06:03 PM GMT

‘It’s a nice round figure, 50’

One member of the House of Lords could be picked up on the live feed of the debate saying “it’s a nice round figure, 50” - the majority that a third Lords amendment to the Rwanda Bill was supported by.

“Well, we set the standard,” another peer was heard saying.

06:02 PM GMT

It’s a third defeat for the Government

The Government has lost again in the Lords on the Rwanda Bill as peers backed an amendment by 276 to 226.

05:44 PM GMT

Government suffers second Rwanda defeat

The Government has suffered a second defeat on Lord Hope’s amendment in the Lords by 285 to 230.

This suggests the Rwanda Bill will not be back in the Commons until after Easter.

05:33 PM GMT


The House of Lords has broken off to vote again.

05:31 PM GMT

Rees-Mogg backs Sunak on a sticky wicket

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said that he cheered for the Prime Minister like he was “at a Test Match at Lords” at this evening’s 1922 Committee meeting, writes Genevieve Holl-Allen, our Political Reporter.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has declared his support for the beleaguered Prime Minister - Carl Court

There were several rounds of banging the table during Rishi Sunak’s address at the 1922, likely to be the last before the local elections.

05:25 PM GMT

Lib Dem Lord: Ministers want us to change our minds without evidence

Lord German, a Liberal Democrat peer, said the Government was “intent on asking us to change our minds without the exact evidence that the House required being provided”.

“The very basic safeguards the Home Office have set out in this treaty need to be fully implemented before this legislation is passed.”

05:22 PM GMT

Lord Lilley accuses Lords of hypocrisy over Rwanda and the EU

Lord Lilley, a Tory peer, said there was a law between 2004 and 2022 “which said there was an irrebuttable presumption that a list of countries is, was and always will be safe”.

“I don’t recall any member of this chamber, or anyone in the other chamber when I was there, to moan.”

He said the old law had no provision for a monitoring committee, adding: “We had provisions which had none of the safeguards that the noble Lord Hope wants to include.

“The only difference was we were required to have that list by our membership of the European Union, and would still have that list now had we not left the European Union

“My Lords, I think we’re making a bit too much of the lack of provisions and safeguards now about one black country when we had no concerns about a list of white countries.”

05:15 PM GMT

Sunak enters 1922 Committee meeting to minute-long applause

Rishi Sunak entered a meeting of the 1922 Committee to a minute-long round of cheers and banging of the tables, our Political Reporter Genevieve Holl-Allen reports live from Parliament’s Committee Corridor.

Among those who attended the meeting were Theresa May and, unusually, a Cabinet Minister.

Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary and a close ally of Mr Sunak, attended the meeting of backbenchers in an apparent show of support of the Prime Minister.

05:08 PM GMT

Lord Hope: Peers must ‘think very carefully’ about giving MPs the last word

Lord Hope of Craighead told peers: “I know that some noble Lords feel that the Commons must have the last word... but on this occasion I really invite those Lordships who are minded to take that view to think very carefully.

“If we don’t send it back, there is a hole in this Bill that will be left empty and unfulfilled.”

05:01 PM GMT

Lord Hope: Rwanda Bill assumes country will be ‘safe forever after’

Lord Hope of Craighead, a crossbench peer, said “further thought needs to be given” by MPs to the Rwanda Bill as he discussed his amendments on the safety of Rwanda.

“It is the judgment of Parliament that the republic of Rwanda is a safe country. That proposition lies at the very heart of this Bill, everything depends upon it, so careful thought has to be given to the use of the word ‘is’ in that statement. What does it mean, what are its consequences, and what does it lead to?”

He added: “I’m doing what lawyers tend to do and that is to look at words and look at what they really mean... As the Bill stands, the assumption seems to be that Rwanda will continue to be safe forever after, come what may.”

Lord Hope said “no provision is made whatsoever anywhere in this Bill if the facts were to change, and everyone can see, as clear as daylight, Rwanda is no longer safe”.

04:53 PM GMT

Breaking: Government suffers first Lords defeat of the day

Lord Coaker’s amendment has been supported by the Lords by 271 votes to 228.

04:40 PM GMT


Peers are now voting on Lord Coaker’s amendment on the rule of law.

04:37 PM GMT

Minister: Lords amendments just prolong cycle of ‘spurious’ legal challenges

Lord Stewart, the Advocate General for Scotland, said the UK had a “dualist approach” where international law was incorporated into domestic law.

He urged Lords to agree with the Government’s assessment that the concerns of the Supreme Court had been “properly addressed” by ministers since November.

“We must end the cycle of late, spurious and repeated legal challenges... Rwanda is a safe country, which will offer the necessary protection and support to those who are relocated there.

“My Lords, these amendments simply perpetuate that cycle of legal challenge and render the Bill worthless. Ours is a strong track record of rights, liberties and protection of human rights internationally and this Government is committed to enhancing that law.”

The Tory minister added that the Rwanda plan was compliant with international law.

04:32 PM GMT

Tory peer: Government must get a grip on migration

Lord Green of Deddington, a Tory peer, tells the Lords: “We must not forget that a very substantial number of people in our country are concerned about what is happening in our borders.

“The Government needs to get a grip and if they don’t succeed the next government will have to tackle it.

“So let’s not be too legalistic. Let’s see if we can find a way through.”

04:27 PM GMT

Baroness Chakrabarti offers MPs ‘significant concession’

Baroness Chakrabarti, the Labour peer, criticised MPs for overturning her amendment, which reinstated domestic courts’ jurisdiction over the Rwanda plan.

“The minister in the other place called it unnecessary and wrecking. Well it can’t logically be both.

“We now add the stipulation that any interim relief be for no longer than strictly necessary than for the fair and expeditious consideration of the case. This is a significant concession.”

She added: “This is a genuine legislative olive branch to an executive that has snapped all others in two. But my Lords, when they go low, let Your Lordships’ house go high.”

04:19 PM GMT

Lord Coaker: Government’s Rwanda approach is a shambles

Lord Coaker said the Government was in “chaos” and “shambles” over the handling of its Rwanda policy.

The Labour peer complained members of the Lords “find out on the Today programme or Times Radio what’s happening” in terms of the timeline for the Rwanda Bill.

“If [the Government] is accusing this chamber of delaying the Bill, what is it not back in the other place on Monday 25th and back here on Tuesday 26th, where it could be dealt with again? Where is the answer to that?

“We’re now told it’s coming back after Easter, but it’s not our fault it’s coming back after Easter. It’s the Government’s management of its own timetable. And I say again it needs to sort it out and try to understand what’s going on.

“We read it’s now 300 migrants for half a billion pounds and counting. We read we’re now apparently having a staged approach, whatever that means.”

04:07 PM GMT

‘What sort of statement is that?’

Lord Coaker, the Labour peer, said it was a “surprise to all of us” that the Government’s Rwanda Bill had “come back without a single word changed, not a single comma moved, not a single full stop inserted”.

“The Government lectures us about constitutional convention and we’ve said all along and I repeat here that it’s not our intention to block the Bill.

“But it’s also part of constitutional convention that the other place rejects on what Your Lordships have said and just doesn’t carte blanche reject them, which is what’s just happened now. Who’s not respecting constitutional convention now?”

He added: “I do not believe any of the Lordships in this House, wherever they come from in this debate can be accused of the following, as was mentioned by a Conservative MP on Monday, where he said their Lordships clearly do not care about the people dying while they are trying to cross the Channel.

“That is not the view of a single member of this chamber... There are real differences between us about how we stop the boats and that is the debate and discussion we are having. It’s about the most appropriate way [to stop the boats]... We see yet again from the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday, and repeated in the papers this morning, saying Your Lordships are lacking in compassion. What sort of statement is that?”

04:04 PM GMT

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, guiding you through the rest of the day.

The House of Lords is debating Lord Coaker and Baroness Chakrabarti’s amendments to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan, specifically concerning the rule of law.

03:59 PM GMT

Minister insists Rwanda plan is ‘tough but fair and lawful’

Lord Stewart of Dirleton said the Government’s Rwanda plan is “tough but fair and lawful” as he warned proposed amendments to the Rwanda Bill would do “significant damage” to it.

The Advocate General for Scotland told the House of Lords: “These amendments do significant damage to the core provisions and purpose provided for in the Bill.

“They seek to provide a statutory mechanism to qualify the Bill’s deeming provision and so enable decision makers including courts and tribunals to decide that Rwanda is not a safe country if presented with credible evidence to that effect.

“The amendments remove the prohibitions on courts and tribunals reviewing decisions on the grounds that Rwanda is generally unsafe as well as on the grounds of risk of refoulment or other non-compliance with the terms of the treaty.

“It is the treaty and the published evidence pack that together demonstrate Rwanda is safe for relocated individuals and that the Government’s approach is tough but fair and lawful.”

03:54 PM GMT

Rwanda plan will be a ‘strong deterrent’, says minister

Lord Stewart of Dirleton, the Advocate General for Scotland who is representing the Government during the Rwanda Bill debate, said the Government is “making progress” on tackling small boat Channel crossings but “we still need to do more”.

He told the House of Lords: “We are facing a global crisis of illegal migration and it requires us to seek new, bold, innovative solutions to tackle the increasing numbers of people crossing our borders illegally through such dangerous means.”

Lord Stewart said the Rwanda migrant deportation plan will act as a “strong deterrent” to small boat Channel crossings.

03:48 PM GMT

Rwanda Bill debate gets underway

The Rwanda Bill debate in the House of Lords is now underway as peers consider whether to make further changes to the legislation.

03:40 PM GMT

Rwanda Bill debate set to start in House of Lords

This afternoon’s oral questions session in the House of Lords is just wrapping up which means the Rwanda Bill debate should get underway shortly.

03:28 PM GMT

Labour wishes Varadkar well for the future

Hilary Benn, Labour’s shadow secretary for Northern Ireland, has responded to the resignation of Leo Varadkar (see the post below at 12.50).

He said: “Leo Varadkar has led his country through some momentous changes. Throughout, he has been totally committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it has brought.

“On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish him well for the future and look forward to working with his successor as we continue to strengthen the ties of friendship between our two countries.”

03:17 PM GMT

Seven votes expected on Rwanda Bill

Peers have tabled a handful of new amendments to the Rwanda Bill that will be debated and voted on today.

They cover areas including the safety of Rwanda for asylum seekers and ensuring that the Government complies with international and domestic law.

It is thought that there will be seven votes in total.

03:01 PM GMT

Rwanda Bill debate to start in House of Lords at 3.40pm

The debate on the Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords will get underway at about 3.40pm.

Earlier this week, the House of Commons stripped out all of the changes previously made to the Bill by peers but they will now have another chance to rewrite the legislation.

It is the first round of “ping pong”, the parliamentary process that sees legislation bounce back and forth between the Commons and the Lords until a final version is agreed.

“Ping pong” is the last hurdle legislation needs to clear before it becomes law. If amendments are passed today by peers then the changed version of the Rwanda Bill will have to go back to the Commons for further consideration.

The Government will be hoping to avoid any defeats. That way the Bill will finally make it onto the statute book and ministers will be able to turn their attention to getting planes off the ground.

02:45 PM GMT

Rishi Sunak sends best wishes to Leo Varadkar

02:30 PM GMT

‘A daunting responsibility’

Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales and the first black leader of any European country, has spoken of the historic significance of his election.

Addressing the Senedd, he said: “We have of course, today voted also to ensure that Wales becomes the first nation anywhere in Europe to be led by a black person.

“It is a matter of pride for a modern Wales but also a daunting responsibility for me – and one that I do not take lightly.

“Today, we can also expect the depressingly familiar pattern to emerge: abuse on social media, racist tropes disguised with polite language.

“People questioning my motives and, yes, they will still question or deny my nationality. Whilst others question why I’m ‘playing the race card’.

“To those people, I say once more – it is very easy not to care about identity when your own has never once been questioned or held you back.”

02:09 PM GMT

New Welsh First Minister claims UK Government ‘undermined’ devolution

Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales, claimed that the UK Government had tried to undermine Welsh devolution.

Speaking in the Senedd, he said: “In recent years we have pushed the boundaries of what is possible with devolution. We did it, for example, to keep Wales safe. But in that same period, we have seen unprecedented hostility towards democratic Welsh devolution from a UK Government determined to undermine, frustrate and bypass the Welsh Government and this Senedd.

“As well as leaving Wales with less say over less money, it is deeply corrosive, wasteful and undemocratic. As First Minister, I look forward to standing up for Wales and for devolution in the weeks and months to come.

“But I relish the opportunity to co-operate for Wales with a new UK government that invests in partnership and in Wales’ future.”

02:04 PM GMT

Gething thanks Drakeford as he takes over as First Minister of Wales

Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales, thanked his predecessor Mark Drakeford for his support as he was elected to the role.

Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Gething said: “My sincere thanks to fellow members who have supported my nomination today.

“I am particularly grateful to my predecessor, Mark Drakeford, for his nomination and for the support he has offered me - not just in recent days - but through the many years we have worked so closely together.

“I don’t think that any of us would ever want to live through those dark days of the pandemic again, but - like other colleagues here - I was incredibly grateful to have Mark as our first minister through that time.

“History will rightly judge Mark for the compassionate, collegiate and ethical leadership that shone through those dark days for our nation.”

Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales, is pictured today in the Senedd
Vaughan Gething, the new First Minister of Wales, is pictured today in the Senedd - Matthew Horwood /PA

02:02 PM GMT

Vaughan Gething elected First Minister of Wales

Vaughan Gething, the new Welsh Labour leader, has been elected as the First Minister of Wales.

He succeeds Mark Drakeford, who resigned in an emotional speech yesterday after holding the position since 2018.

Mr Gething was elected as the Welsh government leader by members of the Senedd this afternoon.

He won the support of all the Labour members as well as Jane Dodds, the Senedd’s only Liberal Democrat member.

The Conservative and Plaid Cymru members voted for their respective party leaders.

02:01 PM GMT

No 10 won’t be drawn on Tories’ local election expectations

The Prime Minister’s press secretary would not say whether the Conservatives expect to make gains at the local elections, with the party currently facing dire poll ratings.

Asked whether the Tories expected to perform well on May 2, she told reporters: “We are not commentators, we are participants in these local elections.

“As we go into them, we will be fighting for every vote. We will be talking about Labour’s record as we go into them.

“Clearly it is up to voters, but we are participants in this and so we will be making the case for Conservatives, who always deliver low taxes.”

Pressed on whether the party expected to make gains, the spokesman replied: “As I said, I’m not a commentator, that is not my job. We are participants in this.”

01:32 PM GMT

Sunak to tell Tory MPs to ‘pull together’

Rishi Sunak will urge Conservative MPs to “pull together” when he appears before them at a meeting of the 1922 Committee later this afternoon.

Asked what Mr Sunak’s message would be to backbench Tories, the Prime Minister’s press secretary told reporters: “He will be talking about the local elections and I’m sure they will be talking about that, we have got to pull together to make sure Labour don’t do... to Britain, what they have done to Birmingham.

“As the PM said, [there have been] eye-watering tax rises, bins uncollected, massive cuts to the arts in Birmingham - it is truly… worse than in the 1970s under Labour leadership there. So he will be talking about that.”

Asked whether Mr Sunak was concerned that the Tories had not been pulling together, his spokesman replied: “He wants everyone going into these local elections talking about the Labour Party’s poor record in Birmingham, Wales and London, and that will be the focus of the Conservatives as we go into these important local elections.”

01:17 PM GMT

Labour vows to save NHS by sharing data from GP records

Data from GP records will be shared to save the NHS, Labour has vowed as the party accused the Tories of being “too timid” in their approach to technology.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said Labour would go further than the Government in modernising the health service and using patient data to improve care.

The party’s technology plan would also mean that the NHS will send app alerts to patients when a relevant clinical trial is recruiting.

You can read the full story here

12:50 PM GMT

Leo Varadkar resigns as Irish prime minister

Leo Varadkar has resigned as Ireland’s prime minister and leader of the Fine Gael party in a move that will increase pressure on his coalition government to call a general election.

The Taoiseach made the announcement at Government Buildings in Dublin at lunchtime, bringing an end to his second stint as Ireland’s leader.

He said: “After careful consideration and soul searching, I don’t feel I’m the best person for the job anymore.”

You can read the full story here

12:35 PM GMT

SNP leader suggests Tories could find Sunak replacement on Labour frontbench

Stephen Flynn joked that the Tories could find a candidate to replace Rishi Sunak on the Labour frontbench after Rachel Reeves’ recent comments about Margaret Thatcher.

The SNP’s leader in Westminster told the Prime Minister: “With his backbenchers looking for a unity candidate to replace him, which of the now numerous born again Thatcherites on the Labour frontbench does he believe best fits the bill?”

Mr Sunak replied: “It was surprising all this talk about the 1970s from the shadow chancellor in particular. But then if you see what is happening in places like Birmingham where taxes are going up by 21 per cent, services are being cut... it was unsurprising why they are talking about the 70s and what they have done to Birmingham the Conservatives will never let them do to Britain.”

12:25 PM GMT

Starmer: Half of Sunak’s Cabinet lining up to replace him

Sir Keir Starmer said half of Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet were “lining up to replace him” as the Labour leader said the Tories should “pack up, go home and waste somebody else’s time”.

Sir Keir told the Commons: “You can see why he doesn’t want an election, why his party have lost faith in him, why half of his Cabinet are lining up to replace him.

“No answers, no plan, no clue. And the Prime Minister has never had the courage to stand up to his party. So let me help him out and say to them what he wishes he could.

“The mortgage mayhem, the waiting lists, the criminals walking free. They are the cost of Tory chaos and if they can’t bring themselves to stop the endless games and gimmicks, strop putting themselves before country, they should pack up, go home and waste somebody else’s time.”

Mr Sunak replied: “He talks about his ideas but we are two weeks on from the Budget, the shadow chancellor found time to make a one hour speech last night and we still don’t know how they are going to pay for their £28 billion black hole.

“But while he tries to talk down Britain and the progress that we are making, today’s news shows that the plan is working.

“Inflation down, energy bills down, wages up, pensions up, and taxes cut by £900. And that is the choice. Higher taxes and back to square one with Labour or tax cuts and real change with the Conservatives.”

12:17 PM GMT

Starmer’s values ‘not those of the British people’, claims Sunak

Rishi Sunak claimed that Sir Keir Starmer’s values on border security “are simply not those of the British people”.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “When it comes to this question of how to deal with people who are here illegally, his values are simply not those of the British people.

“After all, this is the person who campaigned to stop the deportation of foreign dangerous criminals.”

Sir Keir replied: “It is genuinely sad to see him reduced to this nonsense.”

12:13 PM GMT

Sunak’s ‘entire focus’ is on stopping Tory leadership revolt, claims Starmer

The Labour leader claimed that Rishi Sunak’s “entire focus” is on stopping Tory MPs from rebelling against his leadership.

Sir Keir Starmer told the House of Commons: “He is now so diminished that his entire focus is stopping his MPs holding the Sword of Damocles above his head, perhaps even literally in the case of the Leader of the House.

“His great hope is to placate his party with a couple of empty planes, praying they won’t notice when the flights stop going, the boats still coming and the costs keep mounting.

“How has he managed to spend £600 million of taxpayer money on a gimmick to deport 300 people?”

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, addresses the House of Commons during PMQs - UK Parliament /PA

Mr Sunak hit back and said: “It is crystal clear. Not only does the Labour Party not have a plan to fix this issue, but the truth is they don’t actually care about fixing this issue.”

12:08 PM GMT

Labour leader and PM clash over Rwanda plan

Sir Keir Starmer insisted Labour is “ready” for the next general election as he told Rishi Sunak: “Just call it.”

Turning to the Government’s Rwanda plan, the Labour leader claimed that the deportation flights would only clear “one per cent” of the asylum backlog.

Mr Sunak said: “Since I became Prime Minister the number of small boat crossings are actually down by over a third.”

12:06 PM GMT

Starmer claims Sunak is ‘scared’ of calling general election

Sir Keir Starmer said the Tories had “wrecked the criminal justice system”, “lost control of the borders”, and “broken” the NHS.

He asked Rishi Sunak: “Why is the Prime Minister so scared to call an election?”

Mr Sunak replied: “As I said in January my working assumption is that the election will be in the second half of the year.

“But I must say I thought that out of everybody he would actually be the most grateful because he has now actually got time to come up with a plan for Britain?”

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, addresses the House of Commons today during PMQs
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, addresses the House of Commons today during PMQs - UK Parliament /PA

12:03 PM GMT

Sunak: ‘Our plan is working’

Prime Minister’s Questions is now underway in the House of Commons.

Rishi Sunak was asked about the fall in inflation (see the post below at 07.49) and he said it was proof that “our plan is working”.

Mr Sunak said there had been “the steepest fall since the 80s” in inflation and it was time to “stick to the plan to deliver a brighter future for our country”.

12:01 PM GMT

Leo Varadkar to step down as Irish prime minister

Leo Varadkar is set to resign as Ireland’s prime minister and leader of the Fine Gael party in a move that will increase pressure on his coalition government to call a general election.

The Taoiseach will reportedly quit in a noon announcement in the courtyard of Government Buildings, bringing an end to his second stint as Ireland’s leader.

You can read the full story here

11:46 AM GMT

Pictured: Rishi Sunak leaves No 10 ahead of PMQs at noon

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, leaves 10 Downing Street to attend PMQs in the House of Commons
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, leaves 10 Downing Street to attend PMQs in the House of Commons - Stefan Rousseau/PA

11:37 AM GMT

Tories narrowly back Sunak to lead party into next election

Rishi Sunak is narrowly backed by Conservative voters to lead the party into the next general election, a new opinion poll reveals.

Just 45 per cent of Tory voters agree that Mr Sunak should be Conservative leader for the election, with 37 per cent wanting someone else. The rest did not express a view.

The narrow margin of support comes as the Prime Minister is dogged by speculation that some Tory MPs on the Right want him to be replaced, possibly with Penny Mordaunt or Tom Tugendhat.

You can read the full story here

11:22 AM GMT

‘It is time for a change’

Sir Ed Davey said it is “time for a change” as he urged people to back the Liberal Democrats at the local elections on May 2.

Launching the party’s local elections campaign in Hertfordshire this morning, the Lib Dem leader said: “Rishi Sunak’s Government is running out of road. People know it is time for a change.

“And people are voting Liberal Democrat because they know it is time for the Liberal Democrats.”

He added: “Above all, it is time to get the Conservatives out of power. It is time to give people a fair deal.”

11:00 AM GMT

Ukraine must be ‘backed to the hilt’, says Truss during visit to Poland

10:39 AM GMT

Davey claims Sunak ‘bottled’ May general election

Sir Ed Davey claimed that Rishi Sunak had “bottled” holding a general election on May 2 as the Lib Dem leader launched his party’s local elections campaign.

Sir Ed claimed that “time is running out” for Mr Sunak as he stood next to an eight-foot tall, blue hourglass to illustrate his point.

When the sand had fallen from the top chamber to the bottom one it revealed the statement: “Time’s running out Rishi!”

Sir Ed Davey launches the Liberal Democrats' local elections campaign this morning
Sir Ed Davey launches the Liberal Democrats' local elections campaign this morning - Joe Giddens /PA

Speaking in front of Lib Dem activists in Hertfordshire, Sir Ed said: “He might have bottled the general election but time is running out for Rishi Sunak.

“He might have bottled the May election, he might be hoping the tide will turn as he squats in Downing Street for a few months more. But even the Prime Minister can’t deny voters across England the chance to cast their vote in the local elections on May 2.

“We have been speaking to lifelong Conservatives around the country. They are telling us that the Conservative Party no longer speaks for them. Time and time again this appalling Conservative Government have let people down.”

10:27 AM GMT

Jeremy Hunt orders HMRC to keep phone lines open

Jeremy Hunt has ordered HMRC to scrap plans to close its phone lines over the summer.

The Chancellor has intervened and told the tax office to “pause” the changes over fears that not all taxpayers’ needs will be met.

HMRC had said that from April 8 until Sept 29 - a period of six months - taxpayers will be unable to call them for help with their tax return as part of a bid to push customers online.

But The Telegraph can now reveal that the closures to the phone lines previously outlined will not go ahead.

You can read the full story here

10:24 AM GMT

Sunak to address 1922 Committee amid leadership speculation

Rishi Sunak will address the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs this afternoon after days of speculation about a potential challenge to his leadership.

The behind-closed-doors meeting in Parliament will get underway at 5pm.

Mr Sunak will enter the meeting carrying a shield of good news after today’s falling inflation numbers.

But he is likely to still face a tough grilling as Tory MPs seek reassurance that he has a strategy for closing the gap to Labour in the opinion polls.

10:04 AM GMT

Yvette Cooper criticises Tories over ‘unbelievable’ asylum costs

Yvette Cooper criticised the Tories’ handling of the asylum system after a report by parliament’s spending watchdog found using barges and ex-military bases to house migrants was costing even more than hotels.

The Government has vowed to stop using hotels to house migrants because it costs £8 million a day.

But despite the pledge to cut costs, the National Audit Office found the Home Office is spending £46 million more to house migrants, in the Bibby Stockholm barge, two former RAF bases and former student accommodation, than it would cost if they were in hotels.

Ms Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the findings were “unbelievable” and claimed Rishi Sunak “just keeps making Tory asylum chaos worse”.

She said the Tories were guilty of “government by gimmick instead of getting a grip”.

09:46 AM GMT

Polls will ‘narrow’ as people ‘feel the difference in their pockets’, says minister

The opinion polls will start to “narrow” as voters feel the benefit of an improving economic situation, a minister said this morning.

Maria Caulfield, a health minister, suggested that the Tories will close Labour’s poll lead when people “start to feel the difference in their pockets”.

Asked if falling inflation figures (see the post below at 07.49) would make a difference to the Conservative Party’s poll rating, Ms Caulfield told Times Radio: “When an election is called, people will have a choice to make.

“And when people are seeing that their income is increasing, that their bills are coming down, will they want to put that at risk with Labour, who quite frankly have no plan at all and have just recently scrapped their £28 billion of borrowing because they know that that would mean more taxes for ordinary, hard working people.

“People will make a choice at that time. We’re not at that point yet, but when people start to feel the difference in their pockets, people will have a tough decision to make at the election. And I think we will see those polls narrow.”

09:28 AM GMT

Lord Cameron visits Thailand to boost trading relationship

09:12 AM GMT

Hunt fails to rule out October general election

Jeremy Hunt did not rule out a general election being held in October after he was asked about comments he made yesterday which set hares running in Westminster.

The Chancellor had told a House of Lords committee that “if the general election is in October” that would make it “very, very tight” to carry out and conclude a spending review by the deadline of the end of March 2025.

His comments were widely interpreted as a hint at the potential election date.

Asked this morning if he was willing to rule out an election in October, Mr Hunt told broadcasters: “What I was saying was that because the next spending review has to be complete before the end of March, if there is an October election, and that is for the Prime Minister to decide, then it would have to be done very quickly after that election and therefore we in the Treasury are starting work now on the most important part of that spending review which is public sector productivity.”

08:57 AM GMT

Hunt: ‘Far too early’ to know if there will be another fiscal event before election

Jeremy Hunt said it was “far too early” to know if there will be another fiscal event before the next general election.

Asked about the possibility of tax cuts in the autumn, the Chancellor told broadcasters: “What I’m really saying is that as inflation gets closer to its target, that opens the door for the Bank of England to consider bringing down interest rates, that brings down mortgage rates, that makes a very big difference.

“It’s far too early to know whether we’ll have another fiscal event before the election, but what I would say is that what you can see is the difficult decisions the Government has taken over the last year are paying off and we can see that - difficult though they were - they were the right thing to do because inflation is now coming right down.”

08:42 AM GMT

Families breathing ‘sigh of relief’ after inflation fall, says Chancellor

Jeremy Hunt said families across the UK will have welcomed today’s inflation figures with a “sign of relief”.

The Chancellor told broadcasters this morning that the numbers showed the Government’s economic plan “is working”.

He said: “Families today will heave a sigh of relief that we are firmly on track to bring inflation down to its target of two per cent. This is the lowest headline rate for two-and-a-half years.

“But most encouragingly food inflation, which was nearly 20 per cent a year ago, is now just five per cent.

“And what this shows is that the plan to bring inflation down - it was over 11 per cent when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, now just 3.4 per cent - that plan is working but we do need to stick to it and see it right the way through.”

08:31 AM GMT

Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer leaves his London home this morning

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured today leaving his London home
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is pictured today leaving his London home - TS/GoffPhotos

08:22 AM GMT

Pass Rwanda Bill to ‘save lives’, Cleverly urges Lords

James Cleverly has issued a last minute plea to the House of Lords to pass the Rwanda Bill in order to “save lives”.

The Home Secretary urged the upper chamber not to block the passage of the small boats legislation ahead of crunch votes this evening as he said “it’s time to let this Bill pass”.

He told the Daily Express: “It has always been illogical to argue the Rwanda scheme won’t work while trying everything and anything politically to ensure it can’t.

“The more this Bill progresses, the more worried Labour get that, as we’ve always said, it will work, and the more we’ve anticipated deliberate efforts from Labour to delay, disrupt or sabotage the scheme.

“We remain focused on not letting that happen, and hope their lordships recognise it’s time to let this Bill pass so we can continue to stop the boats, and save lives.”

08:15 AM GMT

Rwanda Bill returns to House of Lords for crunch votes

It is a big day for the Government’s Rwanda Bill as it returns to the House of Lords for crunch votes this evening.

The House of Commons voted on Monday to overturn 10 amendments made to the Bill by peers.

But the upper chamber will have a chance to reinstate its proposed changes during the first round of parliamentary “ping pong”, with the debate due to start at about 4pm this afternoon.

If changes to the Bill are voted through by peers then the legislation will return to the Commons at some point in the near future so that MPs can have their say.

But if all of today’s amendments fall short, then the Bill’s passage through parliament will be done and dusted and it can finally become law.

The Government will be hoping for the latter as it aims to deliver on its target of migrant deportation flights taking off this spring.

08:04 AM GMT

Sunak hails inflation fall: ‘Good news for you, your family and the country’

Rishi Sunak welcomed today’s inflation numbers, describing them as “good news for you, your family and the country”.

The Prime Minister pledged in January last year to halve inflation and at the time prices rises were running at just over 11 per cent.

Inflation is now at 3.4 per cent and is expected to continue falling in the coming months towards the Bank of England’s two per cent target.

07:52 AM GMT

Rachel Reeves: UK ‘cannot afford another five years of this failed Tory government’

Rachel Reeves said prices are “still high” and claimed that the UK “cannot afford another five years” of the Conservative Party being in charge as she responded to today’s fall in inflation (see the post below at 07.49).

The shadow chancellor said: “After fourteen years of chaos and uncertainty under the Conservatives, working people are worse off. Prices are still high, the tax burden is the highest it has been in seventy years and mortgage payments are going up.

“Now Rishi Sunak is putting forward a reckless £46 billion unfunded tax plan to abolish National Insurance that would risk crashing the economy and re-running the disastrous Liz Truss experiment.

“Britain cannot afford another five years of this failed Conservative government. It’s time for change and it’s time for Rishi Sunak to set the date for the election.”

07:49 AM GMT

Hunt hints at further National Insurance cuts after inflation falls

Jeremy Hunt hinted at further cuts to National Insurance as he hailed a “decisive” fall in inflation today.

Official data published by the Office for National Statistics this morning showed inflation had fallen from four per cent in January to 3.4 per cent in February.

The Chancellor said inflation is now due to return to the Bank of England’s target of two per cent “within months” and this “sets the scene for better economic conditions which could allow further progress” on increasing economic growth and cutting taxes.

He said: “The plan is working. Inflation has not just fallen decisively but is forecast to hit the two per cent target within months.

“This sets the scene for better economic conditions which could allow further progress on our ambition to boost growth and make work pay by bringing down National Insurance as we work towards abolishing the double tax on work - but only if we can do so without increasing borrowing or cutting funding for public services.”