Grant Shapps does not deny RAF could be used for Rwanda deportation flights

The Government will do “whatever we need to do” to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda, Grant Shapps has said in an apparent hint the RAF could be used for deportation flights.

It comes amid reports that RAF Voyager aircraft could be deployed after the Home Office failed to find an airline that would charter the flights.

Downing Street has drawn up plans to order the Ministry of Defence to repurpose at least one of the leased aircraft for this, according to The Times.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the priority was to get the Rwanda Bill passed (Yui Mok/PA)

Defence Secretary Mr Shapps did not deny the suggestion, telling Sky News on Thursday: “We will do whatever we need to do to make sure that we can get these flights off, whether they are charter flights or other kinds of flights.”

He added that which aircraft took asylum seekers to Rwanda was a “secondary issue”.

The Home Office has also not denied the claim.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill remains stuck in deadlock after defiant peers dealt another blow to the Prime Minister’s flagship asylum plan.

Mr Sunak has insisted he wants to get flights to Rwanda off the ground this spring, but MPs will not consider the legislation again until Monday.

His proposed law aims to send some asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Kigali in order to deter people from crossing the English Channel in small boats.

The Bill and a treaty with Rwanda are intended to prevent further legal challenges to the stalled asylum scheme after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful.

As well as compelling judges to regard the east African country as safe, it would give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions.

But the House of Lords on Wednesday snubbed ministerial calls to back down and again insisted on revisions to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Despite MPs overturning previous changes by the upper chamber, peers renewed their demand that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe country until an independent monitoring body has verified that protections contained in the treaty are implemented.

The provision would also allow the Secretary of State to effectively pull the plug on the scheme if the promised safeguards were not maintained.

In a further blow to the Government, peers again supported an exemption from removal for those who worked with the UK military or Government overseas, such as Afghan interpreters.

The Lords’ insistence on the amendments ensures a fourth round of “ping-pong” over the Bill, where legislation is batted between the two Houses until agreement is reached.

The draft law will be sent back to the Commons, where MPs are set to consider the latest changes on Monday.

Home Secretary James Cleverly accused Labour of a “politically cynical” effort to scupper the Rwanda plan.

But Labour said the Government should stop wasting time and money on the “hare-brained scheme”.