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What happens now that MPs have backed Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill?

Rishi Sunak's flagship Rwanda legislation has been approved by MPs, but getting deportation flights off the ground remains far from a done deal.

The legislation will now be pushed further through the parliamentary sausage machine that includes the House of Lords, parliamentary ping pong, and then potentially a nod from the King.

But what exactly happens next, can the bill be changed - and could it even be stopped from becoming law?

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What next?

After passing its third reading in the House of Commons, it has to go through the exact same processes in the House of Lords.

This includes an initial vote - and then if it passes, peers can propose amendments. These would then be debated and voted on.

Due to the Lords regulating itself, the restrictions on the amount of time that can be taken to debate are looser, and so things can move slightly slower than in the Commons.

Unlike in the Commons, the Lords is not bound in the same way by government restrictions on what can be discussed or how long for.

After the House votes on what substantial amendments it wants to make, members "tidy-up" the bill to make sure there are no loopholes.

It is at this point that "ping pong" begins; the bill will bounce between the Commons and Lords, with each house voting on whether to accept the other's amendments.

There is a potential that the Lords could delay the bill until the next general election - but that is something which will be covered in a later section.

It is worth noting the government does not have a majority in the Lords - with 270 of 785 peers belonging to the Conservative Party.

Read more:
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Over what timeline could this proceed?

Another question is when the Lords will start considering the bill, and when voting will take place.

As with many things to do with the Westminster parliamentary process, very little is set in stone and the best we can do is take an educated guess.

One Labour source set out their expectation of how the next few months will go.

They said the earliest the Lords could have a debate and a vote is in the week starting 29 January.

The next step - when the upper chamber debates the bill and any potential changes - could take place between 12 February and 14 February, when the Commons is in recess.

The next set of voting in the Lords would likely take place towards the end of February or the start of March.

Ping pong would likely begin in the second week of March. If the government gets the bill passed, then it is likely to take a few months for things to be put in place for flights to Rwanda to take off.

Could the Lords block the bill?

In short, yes.

In the first instance, members could simply vote down the legislation, although that is quite unlikely.

It could also be held up during the ping pong stage.

This would see the two houses adding and removing each other's amendments on repeated occasions.

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The Lords' ability to hold up legislation is normally balanced by the fact that a government can reintroduce a bill in a subsequent parliament session - which would mean after a King's Speech - and pass it without the Lords' consent.

But this step - included in the Parliament Act - also requires a minimum of a year between the first Commons vote on the legislation, and it passing the same House in the subsequent parliament.

Because an election needs to be called in December this year at the latest, it is possible for the Lords to wait out the clock until then - preventing the use of the Parliament Act.

In what may prove a difficult development for the government, a committee set up to evaluate international treaties on behalf of the Lords has recommended the treaty upon which the Safety of Rwanda Bill is based should not be ratified.

The International Agreements Committee said ratification "should wait until parliament is satisfied that the protections it provides have been fully implemented since parliament is being asked to make a judgement, based on the treaty, about whether Rwanda is safe".