Mark Harper Skewered As Host Points Out Flagship Rwanda Plan 'Is All Going In The Wrong Direction'

Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper Jack Taylor via Getty Images

Transport secretary Mark Harper was put in the hot seat by Trevor Phillips over the government’s flailing Rwanda plan on Sunday.

Speaking shortly after the Conservatives’ miserable local elections results were revealed, the Sky News presenter said: “You’ve pinned pretty much everything on Rwanda.”

Phillips noted the legislation may have gone through parliament, and prime minister Rishi Sunak has promised flights will take off soon – but, as Phillips also pointed out: “His promise is not start the flights. It’s stop the boats.

“And this week we saw the highest figure for channel crossings ever.

“It’s all going in the wrong direction for you.”

The Home Office said 711 people travelled across the English Channel on Wednesday – making it the busiest day of the year to date.

Harper replied: “No, I don’t accept that.”

“Well it’s just a fact,” Phillips replied.

Harper blamed the delay on getting the Rwanda bill through parliament on Labour and Liberal Democrat peers.

Phillips hit back: “It’s not their fault, they’re not in government, you’re in government.”

“No but you do have to get legislation through parliament,” Harper insisted. “We don’t have a majority in the House of Lords.”

He added that Rwanda would become be a deterrent to people smugglers once flights are up and running.

He also claimed that the recent pushback from Dublin was a sign that it was already working.

Phillips said: “It is a bit of a cheek to claim people going to Ireland as success of your policy!”

Dublin has claimed that the UK’s new immigration laws means the country has effectively offloaded its refugees onto Ireland.

Meanwhile, on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, a spokesperson for the Rwanda government refused to guarantee how many migrants it would take from the UK.

Yolande Maloko said the country can accommodate up to 200 people in the facility it currently has set up, and promised discussions to utilise other facilities are underway.

Kuenssberg asked if she could guarantee it could take the 40,000 migrants the UK government hopes to send.

Molako replied: “We will be able to welcome the migrants the UK sends over the lifetime of this partnership.

“What I can not tell you how much we can take in the first year or the second year. That depends on many factors that are being worked out right now.”

The Rwanda deal is currently set to last five years and, according to the National Audit Office, the total cost will be at least £370m.