The Conservative Government refuses to come clean on how much money they’re wasting on the unaffordable & unworkable Rwanda plan.
The Prime Minister had serious doubts as Chancellor, & admitted it won’t work as a deterrent.
We need Labour’s plan to redirect money into smashing the smuggler gangs.
I pay tribute to all colleagues who have taken the time to speak today, particularly the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), for Birmingham, Hall Green (Tahir Ali), for Stretford and Urmston (Andrew Western), for Newport West (Ruth Jones), for Tamworth (Sarah Edwards) and for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Michael Shanks), who made excellent contributions to the debate.
It is crystal clear that the money being wasted on this fantasy—this fixation—in which Members on the Government Benches choose to indulge would be far better spent on proper investment in a cross-border police unit and a security partnership with Europol to go after the criminal gangs upstream, smash those gangs and stop the boats getting in the water in the first place. That is what the Labour party has spent the last year urging the Prime Minister to do and that is what we will do in Government, to help end this Tory small boats chaos. Yet the Prime Minister has instead chosen to bury his head in the sand and double down on failure.
The Rwanda farce is so riddled with absurdity that it is difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the most absurd aspect is that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary agree with the Labour position on this whole sorry mess—they are Rwanda sceptics and non-believers.
Last week, it emerged that when he was Chancellor and during his leadership bid, the Prime Minister privately indicated that he had profound concern over the value for money and the workability of this hare-brained Rwanda scheme. “The deterrent won’t work”, he wrote. How extraordinary then that he is now staking his entire premiership on a scheme that he does not even believe in. How humiliating it must be for him to know that his Back Benchers are pushing him around. They are calling the shots. When all is said and done, what has the Tories’ farcical Rwanda fixation delivered? They have sent three Home Secretaries to Rwanda, but not a single asylum seeker. There has been plenty of pie in the sky, but not a single plane in the sky.
I mentioned earlier the strong contributions from those on the Benches behind me. I was however struggling a bit to understand the logic of the Minister’s point about the information being requested around the costs of the Rwanda plan being somehow commercially sensitive. The Government were all too happy to reveal that they are forking out £500 million on paying the French police to puncture dinghies on the beaches of Calais. The permanent secretary told the Public Affairs Committee that the Rwanda- related costs would be revealed in the accounts in July. Why not just reveal them now? What are they afraid of? Well, they are clearly terrified of admitting that they are blowing £400 million of taxpayer money on this failing scheme. They should ‘fess up and reveal what the real costs are both in terms of what it will cost to fly each individual asylum seeker halfway around the world and what it will cost in terms of processing and related support. We know that it is at least £169,000 per asylum seeker, but can they confirm whether it is even higher—£200,000 or more, as was said earlier? What have they got to hide? Well, perhaps we know what they have to hide—that this Rwanda plan is unaffordable and unworkable. Even if flights take off, they will be about 1% of the 30,000 channel crosses at a maximum. That will not even scratch the surface of the people smugglers’ business model.
Meanwhile, we see that: more than 100,000 asylum cases are unresolved, despite the deceitful nonsense the Prime Minister puts out on social media; nearly 400 hotels are being used for asylum seekers—a number that has gone up not down under this Prime Minister; and 56,000 asylum seekers are languishing in those hotels, costing the taxpayer a staggering £8 million per day.
We need transparency on this. We need transparency around the issue of withdrawn claims. Astonishingly, they make up one third of the recently processed asylum claims that the Prime Minister has been boasting about clearing, yet they have not even been processed properly. As an exercise in the politics of smoke and mirrors, this is surely without parallel. Did the Prime Minister and Home Secretary seriously think that nobody would notice? Did they seriously think that they could pull the wool over the eyes of the British public? What an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. They should come clean to the British public, with a full breakdown of the 35,000 withdrawn claims: who are they; where are they; and are they simply reapplying, or are they drifting away into the underground economy never to be heard of again? Last summer, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) described that trend as an amnesty by the back door. Is he right? The Minister must come clean on these points.
We need a serious plan. We need the end of these headline-grabbing antics. We need common sense, hard graft and international co-operation, as has been set out in Labour’s five-point plan for the past year. Conservative Members do not like it, but the fact is that their plan is not working. They need to come clean over these costs. They need to clear this backlog. I urge Members from all parts of the House to support our Humble Address today so that we can begin the long road back to recovery.