15 November 2023

Sunak faces calls to apologise for ‘wasting’ taxpayers’ cash on Rwanda plan

15 November 2023

Sir Keir Starmer has urged Rishi Sunak to apologise for “wasting” £140 million of taxpayers’ cash after his plan to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda was ruled unlawful.

The Labour leader attacked the Prime Minister over the “gimmick” and told the Commons: “Plan A has failed.”

Mr Sunak pledged to do “whatever it takes to stop the boats” and outlined plans to sign a new deal with Rwanda and, if necessary, change domestic law and “revisit” international relationships.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “For 13 years our security has been undermined by this Tory government. And now the most ridiculous, pathetic spectacle of all.

“His Rwanda scheme, cooked up with his national security threat home secretary, has blown up. He was told over and over again that this would happen, that it wouldn’t work and it was just the latest Tory gimmick.

“But he bet everything on it and now he’s totally exposed. The central pillar of his Government has crumbled beneath him.

“Does he want to apologise to the country for wasting £140 million of taxpayers’ cash, for wasting his entire time in office?”

Mr Sunak said Sir Keir had not heard his commitments to take further action if necessary on his Rwanda plan.

He added: “On stopping the boats, Rwanda is one part of our plan which has already delivered a reduction in the number of small boats this year by a third.”

Mr Sunak used the exchanges to criticise Sir Keir for his previous support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir continued to press on migration, saying: “While he was wasting his time on this gimmick the asylum backlog has swollen to 175,000 people. Taxpayers are paying £8 million a day on hotel bills and 615 people arrived by small boat last Sunday alone.

“Plan A has failed and after this session, whether he likes it or not, he’ll have to go back to his office, back to the drawing board, and start from scratch.

“Can he assure the British public that he will drop what his former home secretary (Suella Braverman) calls his ‘magical thinking’ and start treating small boat crossings with the seriousness that they deserve?”

Mr Sunak replied: “He talks about a changed Labour Party. Perhaps we’ll see that this evening. He can’t even make his party do the right thing when it comes to standing by Israel in the vote later today.

“He talks about taking small boat crossings seriously – he’s opposed every single measure that we have taken.”

Mr Sunak went on to claim Sir Keir wanted a “cosy deal with the EU”, adding: “He doesn’t want to stop the boats, he wants to welcome more of them.”

Conservative former minister Neil O’Brien, who hosted a refugee family through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, later told PMQs: “I’m proud that this country has always offered refuge to those who need it.

“But it’s essential that we in this country decide who comes to this country. The Prime Minister has rightly said he will do whatever it takes to stop the small boats and the evil trade around them.

“But isn’t it apparent that after this morning’s ruling what it will take is a new law to override the Human Rights Act and to cut through the thicket of case law built up by judicial activism so that we can bring back control of our borders and stop the small boats?”

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