UK ministers are facing accusations of employing secretive tactics following the disclosure by a top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, that an additional £100 million was paid to Rwanda in April for hosting asylum seekers. This payment came after a previous payment of £140 million, with an additional £50 million expected next year. The controversy arises amid criticism of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s deportation plan, which he pledged to pursue despite facing opposition from his MPs.
Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, received a letter from Rycroft revealing the full cost of the program so far, challenging the government’s previous commitment to annually disclose costs. Hillier expressed concerns about the lack of transparency, describing the situation as “cloak and dagger” and insisted that MPs should be informed about the costs before voting on such significant initiatives.
Rycroft clarified that the additional £100 million to Rwanda was unrelated to the asylum seeker treaty and was part of an economic transformation and integration fund. However, Hillier criticized the government’s handling of the situation, emphasizing the need for detailed information at each stage of the proposed changes.
In response to the controversy, Chancellor Sunak published an emergency bill empowering ministers to ignore judgments from Strasbourg without leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. This move led to the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick. The newly appointed minister for legal migration and delivery, Tom Pursglove, defended the bill, stating that it was crucial for implementing the scheme and closing off grounds for objections.
Pursglove expressed confidence that Conservative MPs would support Sunak on the legislation related to Rwanda, asserting a unity of purpose in stopping the arrival of boats. Despite the pressure on Sunak, Pursglove predicted that the prime minister would lead the party into the general election, emphasizing support for the leadership’s stance on the immigration issue.
Pursglove continued to assert that the emergency bill, introduced by Sunak, addresses concerns and challenges raised about sending individuals to Rwanda. He emphasized that the legislation would effectively address the grounds on which objections had been raised in the past. Pursglove, who assumed the role of minister for legal migration and delivery following Jenrick’s resignation, conveyed optimism that Conservative MPs would rally behind the prime minister’s stance on the legislation, underscoring a shared commitment to preventing the influx of boats.
Amid the political turmoil and scrutiny surrounding the deportation plan and the financial dealings with Rwanda, Pursglove maintained that the legislation was a crucial step in executing the government’s objectives. He argued that it would contribute to a more effective implementation of the asylum seeker program.
Furthermore, Pursglove expressed confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership, suggesting that Johnson would lead the party into the upcoming general election. According to Pursglove, there is a prevailing unity of purpose within the party, particularly regarding the issue of immigration, and he believed that this cohesion would translate into electoral success.
As the political landscape remains tense and discussions about immigration policies continue to dominate public discourse, the government faces ongoing challenges in justifying its actions and maintaining support both within the parliamentary ranks and among the general population.