Rishi Sunak(Image: Getty)

Rishi Sunak faced a challenging session at the Liaison Committee, where an uneasy Prime Minister evaded questions on the cost of the Rwanda deportation deal and the timeline for addressing the ongoing migrant crisis.

Dame Meg Hillier, heading the Public Accounts Committee, pressed Sunak on the lack of transparency regarding the expenses associated with the Rwanda project. Despite her insistence on openness, Sunak attributed the secrecy to commercial confidentiality, sidestepping specific inquiries about the sums taxpayers are contributing.

The government has already committed £240 million to Rwanda for the controversial five-year deportation deal, with an additional £50 million slated for April and ongoing annual payments. Sunak, however, declined to disclose the full financial implications of these commitments, emphasizing the need for annual disclosures.

Regarding the pledge to curb small boat crossings, Sunak provided no clear timeline, maintaining that there isn’t a precise date for this initiative. When confronted by Dame Diana Johnson about the record number of crossings this year, Sunak attributed the rise to the situation predating his tenure and reiterated the absence of a firm date for resolution.

Dame Diana further pressed Sunak on the undisclosed costs associated with sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. Despite acknowledging the £240 million already paid and the upcoming £50 million installment, Sunak defended the lack of disclosure, citing the government’s need for negotiation flexibility. He asserted that transparency is ensured through annual reporting.

When questioned about the seemingly unlimited cost of the Rwanda scheme, Sunak clarified that while the scheme is uncapped, the government has the ability to manage expenses with volume and fixed costs. He highlighted the uncertainty about the final deterrent effect and juxtaposed it with potential multi-billion-pound annual costs if asylum numbers increase.

Dame Meg challenged Sunak on the secrecy, deeming it unusual for a flagship program signed off during his chancellorship to lack regular cost reporting. Sunak maintained that the government’s discretion allows for more effective negotiations with other countries, without confirming ongoing talks.

Sunak also refrained from committing to meeting the target of clearing a legacy backlog of 92,000 asylum seekers by the year-end, emphasizing the ongoing progress without providing specifics. Similarly, he avoided setting a public target for addressing a further backlog of 91,000 asylum cases.

Related Post