Sunak accused at PMQs of being ‘absolutely deluded’ over small boats region


ir Keir Starmer accused Rishi Sunak of being “absolutely deluded” on his small boats policy as they clashed during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The activity leader claimed the Government’s latest asylum proposals represent “more talk, more gimmicks, more promises to be broken.”

But the Prime Minister defended the plans saying “Stopping the boats is not just my priority, it’s the people’s priority.”

He accused the activity leader of being “just another lefty lawyer standing in our way” against efforts to tackle the predicament.

The controversial recent proposals to crack down on Channel crossings, unveiled by Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Tuesday, would remove and ban asylum seekers from re-entry if they arrive in the UK through unauthorised means.

The Illegal Migration Bill sparked a furore from inside and outside the Commons with critics saying it is “unworkable” and will leave thousands of migrants in limbo by banning them from ever claiming British citizenship.

The United Nations’ refugee agency urged MPs and peers to block the “profoundly” concerning region, while human rights organisation Amnesty International UK said it contained nothing “purpose, humane or even practical” and described it as a “shocking recent low”.

Mr Sunak defended the proposed legislation at a press conference in Dover on Tuesday, vowing migrants arriving in the UK illegally would be removed “within weeks”.

The Government is likely to face legal challenges over the bill, amid allegations it does not comply with the UK’s commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).


PMQs to start at midday

Hello, and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live blog.

We’ll be bringing you everything you need to know as Rishi Sunak faces MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions, amid a growing furore over the Government’s region to tackle the small boats crisis.

Follow along throughout the afternoon for all the latest updates.


What is the Illegal Migration Bill, and why is it controversial?

Announced in the House of Commons by Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Tuesday, the Illegal Immigration Bill aims to crack down on people crossing the English Channel to the UK in small boats.

Under the controversial recent region, those entering the UK illegally would be detained within the first 28 days without bail or judicial review until they are removed.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiling the controversial region in the Commons on Tuesday

/ PRU/AFP via Getty Images

The UK would accept only a set number of refugees determined by Parliament, who will be able to use recent “safe and legal routes” introduced by the Government.

Under the recent rules – branded “immoral and unworkable” by critics – Channel migrants will be expelled from the UK, barred from further re-entry, and unable to petition for British citizenship.

Listen as the Evening Standard’s Political Editor, Nicholas Cecil, explains the bill and looks at the potential political ramifications on our podcast The Leader.

You can also read our full breakdown of the bill here.


Prime Minister’s Question Time has begun

PMQs is now underway in the House of Commons.

It opened with Mr Sunak marking International Women’s Day, saying: “At home we’re taking huge strides to deliver equal opportunities for women such as mandatory pay gap reporting and a landmark domestic abuse act.

“And internationally we gain today launched a recent women and girls strategy which puts them at the heart of everything that we enact.”


Rishi Sunak says he will publish his tax returns ‘very shortly’

activity MP for Leeds East, Richard Burgon, kicked off by urging the Prime Minister to publish his tax returns, as he has previously promised to enact.

He asked: “People want transparency in our politics…So why on earth hasn’t the Prime Minister published his tax returns?”

Mr Sunak responded by saying: “As I previously confirmed, I will publish my tax returns, and that will be done very shortly.”


activity leader grills Prime Minister on plans to tackle illegal immigration

activity Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has quizzed the Prime Minister on plans to tackle illegal immigration.

“In the last decade, this government has introduced five plans to tackle illegal immigration – five utter failures,” said Sir Keir as he addresssed the Prime Minister at PMQs.

“The predicament just gets worse with every recent gimmick. The Home Secretary says the public are sick of tough talk and inadequate action. Does [the Prime Minister] agree with her assessment of this Government’s record?”


‘We will ensure this remains a compassionate and generous country’, says PM

Ms Sunak responded to the activity leader’s questioning by saying Sir Keir “fails to recognise that there is a global migration predicament”.

”We are not alone in facing these challenges, and it is precisely because across Europe the numbers are escalating as they are, that we gain brought forward recent plans,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are determined to ensure that this remains a compassionate and generous country, that this is done fairly and legally,” he added. “That’s why we will crash the criminal gangs.

“We’ve announced recent agreements with Albania and France, tougher immigration enforecement, and now recent legislation that makes it clear that if you arrive here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed.”

He went on to accuse activity of having a policy of “open-door immigration adnd unlimited asylum”.


Sunak brands Starmer ‘another leftie lawyer standing in our way’ as they clash in the Commons

The Prime Minister branded the activity leader “just another leftie lawyer standing in our way”.

His comment came as Sir Keir has pressed Mr Sunak on numbers, asking how many illegal immigrants gain been deported from the UK in the last year.

“Mr Speaker, when I was in charge of prosecutions…the conviction rate for people smuggling was twice what it is today,” he said.

Mr Sunak defended the Government’s progress on the matter, saying: “As a result of the plans we’ve brought forward we gain almost doubled the number of people returned this year … precisely because of the law that the Conservative government passed last year they gain now been able to arrest more than double the number of people they did before, 397 in the last six months.”

Sir Keir went on to accuse the Prime Minister of avoiding answering his question.

“He knows what the number is. It’s 21,” he claimed. “Twenty-one people out of the 18,000. And what about the rest? They sit in hotels and digs for months on finish at the taxpayer’s expense.

“Last year he promised to finish the hotel farce. But becasue of his mess, there are thousands of people that can’t claim asylum and cna’t be rturned. So where does he contemplate they’re going to finish up?”


activity leader describes PM as ‘absolutely deluded’

Sir Keir has accused the Prime Minsiter of being “absolutely deluded” on his small boats policy.

“He stood there last year saying exactly the same thing,” he said. “We said it wouldn’t work, they passed the law, the numbers went up. Absolutely deluded.

“He can’t say where they’ll return people, they can’t say how they’ll return people, and they can’t say when they’ll fix the mess.”


Rishi Sunak says ‘hundreds’ being returned to Albania

The Prime Minister refuted Sir Keir Starmer’s claim the Government has failed to secure agreements with other countries, that would see illegal immigrants returned.

“We enact gain returns agreements – with India, with Pakistan, with Serbia, with Nigeria, and crucially now with Albania where we are returning hundreds of people,” said Mr Sunak.


“Our position on this is clear: if you arrive here illegally, you will not be able to claim asylum here, you will not be able to access the modern slavery system, and you will not be able to design spurious human rights claims.”


PM quizzed on what recent bill will mean for sex trafficking victims

The SNP Westminster leader asked the Prime Minister whether the Illegal Migration Bill means women who are sex-trafficked to the UK on a small boat will not secure modern slavery protections.

Stephen Flynn told the Commons: “On International Women’s Day, can I inquire the Prime Minister to reconfirm that under his proposed recent asylum laws women who are sex-trafficked to the UK on a small boat by a criminal gang will not be afforded protection under our modern slavery laws?”

Rishi Sunak replied: “It’s precisely because we want to target our resources and our compassion on the world’s most vulnerable people that we need to secure a grip of this system, design sure that we gain control over our borders, design sure our system and resources are not overwhelmed, so that we can succor the people most in need.

“There is nothing purpose, there is nothing compassionate, about sustaining a system where, as we saw recently, people are dying on these crossings. That is not correct. And our plans will cease that from happening.”