Rishi Sunak’s flagship Stop the Boats policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has swallowed up another £100 million despite not a single flight getting off the ground. Mr Sunak is facing fresh pressure over the beleaguered plan after it emerged the cost of the unused scheme has already reached £240 million.
The Government spent a further £100 million in the 2023-24 financial year while flights remained grounded amid a series of legal setbacks, on top of the £140 million previously paid out. And Sir Matthew Rycroft, a senior civil servant in the Home Office, said another payment of £50m was expected to be thrown at the scheme in 2024.
In a letter published on Thursday to Dame Diana Johnson, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, and Dame Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, Sir Matthew Rycroft wrote: “Ministers have agreed that I can disclose now the payments so far in the 2023-24 financial year.
“There has been one payment of £100 million, paid in April this year as part of the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund mentioned above.
“The UK Government has not paid any more to the Government of Rwanda thus far. This was entirely separate to the Treaty – The Government of Rwanda did not ask for any payment in order for a Treaty to be signed, nor was any offered.”
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Yesterday the Prime Minister delivered a pandemic-like update from behind a lectern in Downing Street following the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick over the new Rwanda proposals.
A new Bill introduced by the government seeks to compel judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country after the Supreme Court ruled the scheme was unlawful over risks to refugees.
Mr Sunak, who had just returned from the COP28 climate meeting in Dubai, said the new Bill “blocks every single reason that has ever been used” to prevent flights to Rwanda.
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Today Mr Jenrick’s replacement Tom Pursglove said the Government could be open to compromises with rebel Tory MPs unhappy with Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda legislation.
Mr Pursglove played down the prospect of a bitter parliamentary battle by saying Tory MPs will back the Bill when it is voted on next Tuesday.
But he was unable to offer a timetable for when the Rwanda legislation would get through Parliament.
Mr Pursglove was touring broadcast studios on Friday to defend the plan, a day after being appointed minister for legal migration when Robert Jenrick’s role was split into two following his resignation in protest at the legislation he believed was doomed to fail.
Amid public displays of deep division over the Bill, Mr Pursglove insisted there was a “unity of purpose on the Conservative benches in Parliament that we need to address this issue” of small boats carrying asylum seekers to UK shores.
He told BBC Radio’s Today programme this morning: “Undoubtedly, there are different views on aspects.
“But I think in terms of that mission, we recognise that these crossings of the Channel are completely unacceptable.”
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