The government has faced down a febrile rebellion over toughening up a small boats law as amendments to the Rwanda Bill failed to pass, ahead of yet another crunch vote this week.
Ministers won votes on several amendments designed to scupper the new law on Channel crossings, set to return to the Commons for another crucial bout in the ring on Wednesday.
The size of the mutiny could still prove a challenge to No10’s authority, as similar numbers could see the legislation thrown out if enough MPs vote against it at third reading.
Legislation designating the east African nation a safe country for those who arrived illegally in the UK to be deported to made a return to the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon.
But the proposals – a key plank of Rishi Sunak’s bid to override a Supreme Court judgement ruling the policy unlawful – were beset by pressure from the Tory left and right flanks.
Hardline rightwingers urged Sunak to toughen up legislation even further, while ‘One Nation’ Conservatives called for him to stay within the bounds of international law.
Deputy Tory party chairmen Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith resigned CCHQ jobs to back right-wing changes to the Bill, despite Tory election guru Isaac Levido’s entreaties that “divided parties fail”. Junior minister Jane Stevenson also resigned at the same time.
MPs voted 529 to 68 to reject Tory MP Sir Bill Cash’s amendment aiming to ensure UK and international law could not be used to prevent or delay a person being removed to Rwanda.
And just 58 to 525 backed former immigration minister Robert Jenrick’s attempt to put stringent limits on individual asylum seekers’ ability to appeal against being flown to Kigali.
Jenrick earlier described his modifications as seeking to “address the evident flaws of the Bill”, adding that they “represent the last opportunity for us to get this policy right”.
While a Scottish National Party (SNP) attempt to rewrite the wording to designate Rwanda an “unsafe” country failed as expected.
Sunak has made illegal immigration a vital strand of his premiership, vowing to ‘Stop the Boats’ as one of his five pledges and staking his reputation on delivering the Rwanda policy.
The legislation comes alongside a fresh treaty with Rwandan President Paul Kagame intended to solidify promises to improve the asylum system and bring in scrutiny measures.
It returns to the Commons for its third reading this week, which will see MPs have their final say on whether they want the bill to become law – before heading to scrutiny in the Lords.