Rishi Sunak has reversed plans for deportation flights of illegal immigrants to Rwanda to begin this summer.
During a Liaison Committee hearing in Parliament, the Prime Minister denied making the promise and stated that it will only happen “after legal hurdles have been cleared.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks contrast sharply with a briefing given by a senior Government source to journalists who travelled to Rwanda earlier this month with Home Secretary Suella Braverman to inspect the facilities.
At the time, a senior government official stated that the UK is “certainly working towards getting the flights off by summer.”
When pressed on this during his appearance before the Liaison Committee, which is made up of the chairs of the various Commons select committees, Mr Sunak denied ever making the promise (video above).
Over his policies, he clashed with Labour MP Diana Johnson, who chairs the Homes Affairs Select Committee.
Ms Johnson said: “Given that the Illegal Immigration Bill has been backdated to March 7 and it has been promised that the flights to Rwanda will be departing by the summer, small boats should already have a deterrent in action.
“But actually there have already been 3,700 come over on small boats this year. So why hasn’t there been a deterrence effect so far?”
Mr Sunak responded: “Just to pick up on what you said nobody has said there will be flights by this summer.”
Then challenged that Mr Braverman had promised that he added: “No, that’s not what she said.”
He went on: “What we have said is we will start flights as soon as we can after legal proceedings have completed.
The admission comes at a sensitive time for the Prime Minister, who is attempting to steer his Illegal Immigration Bill through Parliament in the face of a Tory MP rebellion to toughen it up.
Tory rebels decided not to propose an amendment allowing European Court of Human Rights decisions on illegal migration to be ignored as long as the government provided assurances that the legislation would be protected.