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Sunak did not mislead MPs over cost of Rwanda scheme, No 10 says

08 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room. Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak did not mislead MPs over the cost of his troubled Rwanda asylum scheme, Downing Street said, after it emerged the UK paid Kigali an extra £100 million.

The policy attracted fresh criticism when it was revealed the additional payment was made this year, while flights remained grounded amid a series of legal setbacks, on top of the £140 million previously paid out.

The Government remained tight-lipped on costings as it set out plans to revive the deportation scheme earlier this week, with the further payments only disclosed on Thursday evening in a letter from the Home Office to committee chairs.

The Home Office’s top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, also said in the letter that ministers expect to pay £50 million more next year, bringing the total to £290 million.

But No 10 rejected any suggestion that the Prime Minister had misled, even inadvertently, parliamentarians over the money for Kigali.

‘Subsequent funding’

A spokeswoman told reporters on Friday that the original memorandum of understanding with Rwanda stated that the deal “involves subsequent funding”.

“It was always set out that there would be funding attached to what is an economic and migration partnership. And this further funding was part of that,” she said.

The official argued that in the long term the Rwanda policy would help bring down the costs of processing and housing asylum seekers in the UK.

It would “put an end to the unacceptable costs that we face in the UK, the £8 million hotel bills that we face every single day”, she said.

The extra £100 million payment, made in April, was signed off by sacked home secretary Suella Braverman, Downing Street said.

Opposition parties reacted furiously to the disclosure, with the Liberal Democrats branding it an “unforgivable waste of taxpayers’ money”.

“The fact that this Government is content to squander millions on this totally unworkable white elephant of a policy tells you everything you need to know about their priorities,” Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said.

Transparency

The chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier, hit out at the lack of transparency over the costings, saying they had only been revealed after repeated inquiries.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it “almost looks like the Government has got something to hide”.

Mr Sunak hopes to rush emergency legislation through Parliament for MPs and peers to declare that Rwanda is a safe destination after the Supreme Court ruled the scheme was unlawful over risks to refugees.

But he faces dissent from hardline Tories and MPs from the more moderate wing of the party and the prospect of a bitter parliamentary battle.

The new legal migration minister, Tom Pursglove, earlier suggested the Government could be open to compromises with would-be rebels.

“As ministers we will engage constructively with parliamentarians around any concerns,” he said as he toured broadcast studios defending the new law.

His appointment in a mini-reshuffle came after Robert Jenrick’s role was split in two following his resignation as immigration minister in protest at the legislation he believed was doomed to fail.

The No 10 spokeswoman declined to comment on whether compromises could be reached, saying: “There will be the usual processes and debate next week. I wouldn’t pre-empt that process.”

One element adding to some Tory MPs’ unease were warnings by senior lawyers, as reported by The Times, that the legislation remains at risk of failure by allowing migrants to challenge their removal by identifying reasons that Rwanda is unsafe for them personally.

The Downing Street spokeswoman said: “We expect that those able to provide compelling evidence about specific individual risks will be vanishingly narrow and that’s why we believe that this is the best approach to get flights swiftly off the ground.”


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Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago

Yes he did. His presser yesterday was obfuscation 101. Blaming Labour to boot. Now a 100mil just went to a country you wouldn’t want to bet your rights on.
Rwanda laughing all the way to the bank.
This will get nasty.
When do we get the first people from Rwanda.

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago

Oh yeah, 310million by next year.
Must be restocking the mini bar for all the home secretary visits.

Frank
Frank
2 months ago

The tories are good at frittering our money away. How many hundreds of millions are we paying to France to stop immigrants before they cross to the UK? That agreement works a treat doesn’t it!!!! I can see France stopping them as the security guards quietly point the way towards the UK. Now we’re having to pay hundreds of millions to Rwanda to take immigrants there but they are already asking for another hundred million. Pathetic!!

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
2 months ago

With CONservatives, the emphasis is on the first syllable.

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