Truss claims near-empty flight to Rwanda for asylum seekers ‘still value for money’ – UK politics live

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Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning.

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Truss claims near-empty flight to Rwanda for asylum seekers would still be ‘value for money’

And here are some more lines from Liz Truss’s interviews this morning.

  • Truss, the foreign secretary, claimed that by the end of the year the number of asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda would be “significant”. But she would not put a number on what that meant.
  • She claimed that tonight’s flight would be “value for money” – even though she also conceded it might be contain just a handful of asylum seekers. (See 9.04am.) According to some reports, the flight will cost around £500,000. Truss would not confirm this, or say what the actual cost would be, but she said it would be “value for money” because the flights would deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats. “It is value for money,” she said, adding: “We want to stop these costs [the costs of small boat Channel crossings] both in monetary cost but also in human misery.”
  • She claimed there was no reason why the EU should react negatively to the legislation published yesterday allowing the UK to disapply large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. She explained:

Our solution doesn’t make the EU any worse off. We continue to protect the single market, we’re supplying the EU with data, we’ve got strong enforcement to make sure companies aren’t violating the rules.

So there is absolutely no reason why the EU should react in a negative way to what we’re doing.

  • She said she was doing all she could to secure the release of the two Britons sentenced to death after being captured fighting against the Russians in Ukraine. But she said she wanted to do what was “most effective”, and would not discuss her strategy in public. She explained:

I am doing everything I can in the best way I can, in the way that I judge is most effective, to deliver these people’s release. I will do whatever is necessary to secure their release

“I’ve assured the families I will do what is most effective to secure their release and I’m not going to go into our strategy live on air.

She said dealing with the Ukrainians on this was the “best route”.

  • She claimed that when she said in February she would support Britons going to Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders, she also said the travel advice was that people should not go there. On the Today programme she was asked if the fate of the two Britons sentenced to death had made her reflect on the wisdom of what she said. In reply, she claimed she was clear at the time that the travel advice said people should not go to Ukraine. When her actual words at the time were put to her, she replied:

I also said that the travel advice was not to go to Ukraine.

In fact, in the original interview in which she said she would back Britons going to fight in Ukraine, she said nothing about government travel advice saying this would be a mistake. The government clarified its position subsequently.

Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Sturgeon has also published a Scottish government paper arguing that, as a small national, Scotland would be better off independent. It’s here.

Sturgeon says she will set out ‘very soon’ plan for how Scotland could hold second independence referendum without backing of UK government

Nicola Sturgeon is now speaking at the event where she is publishing the first of what will be a series of Scottish government papers making the case for independence.

She said she would be proposing a means for Scotland to hold a second independence referendum without permission from the UK government.

Under the devolution legislation, a referendum of this kind would be a reserved matter and the Scottish government would need a section 30 order for it to be allowed to go ahead lawfully. This is what happened ahead of the referendum in 2014.

She said an independence referendum would have to be lawful. And she said she would soon make a statement to the Scottish parliament explaining in more detail her strategy.

These are from my colleague Severin Carrell.

She will set out that strategy in #holyrood “very soon”

— Severin Carrell (@severincarrell) June 14, 2022

And here is the clip.

Geidt challenged by MPs to explain why he has not tried to launch inquiry into claims PM’s Partygage activities broke ministerial code

Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, has been giving evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee. Recently No 10 announced changes to the ministerial code that appeared to beef up the powers of the adviser – although there has been a debate about whether or not these changes are cosmetic, and Boris Johnson did not explicitly agree to the recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life saying the adviser should be able to initiate (without getting permission from the PM first) inquiries into allegations about ministers breaking the ministerial code.

Geidt has been talking up the significance of these changes, but the committee does not seem to be particularly impressed. Here are some of the key points so far.

  • Geidt claimed that in practice he now does have the power to initiate an inquiry into alleged breaches of the ministerial code. This is from Catherine Haddon from the Institute for Government.

Geidt says that he feels he can initiate inquiries.

Says that proof of that is that none of the inquiries he has wanted to initiate has been refused.

Argues he thinks the power is increased.

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) June 14, 2022

  • But Geidt struggled to give a convincing explanation as to why he has not launched in investigation into allegations that Suella Braverman, the attorney general, leaked information about her legal advice about the Northern Ireland protocol bill. Leaking government legal advice is a serious matter. But Geidt seemed surprised by the suggestion he should be investigating this, and said he had not given it proper thought.

Committee now pressing on why he has not then looked into why legal advice on NIP was leaked.

Seems Geidt not quite prepared for committee thinking that would be his remit.

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) June 14, 2022

  • Geidt confirmed that he has not asked the PM to agree to an inquiry into claims that Boris Johnson broke the ministerial code over Partygate. The committee chair, William Wragg (Con), implied that it was not a coincidence that the revision of the ministerial code giving Geidt new powers was only announced two days after the publication of the Sue Gray report, which effectively draw a line under the Partygate controversy. This is from LBC’s Theo Usherwood.

William Wragg asks why after-the-event has Lord Geidt got new powers to initiate an investigation into the PM.

Lord Geidt says he is glad he has got the new powers.

Lord Geidt then tells John McDonnell he never asked the PM to launch an investigation.

— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) June 14, 2022

And these are from Haddon.

McDonnell asks whether even under previous powers he could at least have asked?

Geidt again refers to the need for PM to ‘put into the public square’ his own view on breaching the code.

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) June 14, 2022

Geidt seems to be arguing that he doesn’t need to investigate if the PM makes his own judgement on whether the PM has broken the code.

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) June 14, 2022

Geidt now seems to be saying that it was only when the Gray report came out that Geidt was able to make a judgement on how it affected his role.

And then all he could do was pressure the PM to speak to the breach of the code.

‘that matter has now passed into the record’

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) June 14, 2022

Boris Johnson being filmed as he addressed cabinet this morning.
Boris Johnson being filmed as he addressed cabinet this morning. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

Johnson criticises lawyers opposing deportations to Rwanda, implying they are ‘abetting work of criminal gangs’

Cabinet meetings take place in private. But in recent weeks No 10 has been letting the cameras in so that pictures are available (something that only used to happen when a new cabinet met after a reshuffle), and Boris Johnson’s opening remarks have been filmed, or written up by PA Media, so cabinet becomes a media event.

It happened again this morning, and Johnson used his opening remarks to defend the Rwanda deportation policy. Here are the main points.

  • Johnson criticised lawyers opposing deportations to Rwanda, implying they were abetting the work of the people smugglers. Yesterday Johnson claimed that he had “utmost respect for the legal profession”. (His previous wife was a lawyer.) But today he reverted to his more usual lawyer-bashing, saying that the Rwanda policy was facing a “huge amount of attack”, coming “not least from lawyers”. He went on:

What is happening with the attempt to undermine the Rwanda policy is that they are, I’m afraid, undermining everything that we’re trying to do to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes. That is what we are trying to do, that is the essence of our policy.

And I think that what the criminal gangs are doing and what those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing is undermining people’s confidence in the safe and legal system, undermining people’s general acceptance of immigration.

Given that the only way people facing deportation to Rwanda can halt the process is by going to court, it is hardly surprising that lawyers play a prominent role in this process. In doing so, they are doing their job.

  • Johnson said the government would not be deterred by criticism of the policy – even from Prince Charles. He did not mention the prince by name, but he clearly referred to him, saying:

We are not going to be in any way deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that is being directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters. We are going to get on and deliver.

  • He claimed the government was working with “humanity and compassion” to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats. He said:

It is not reasonable to try to turn boats around at sea in the English Channel, those waters are very dangerous.

We have to work within the scope of common humanity and compassion, that’s the right thing to do.

But we have to interrupt the business model of the gangs and what we see now is our policy, the economic and migration partnership with Rwanda, that we have engaged upon under a huge amount of attack.

Boris Johnson at cabinet today.
Boris Johnson at cabinet today. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

From my colleague Aubrey Allegretti

A Tory MP unimpressed with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest message to their WhatsApp group: “The man who wants to know which civil servants are in the office doesn’t want people to know which MPs are.” pic.twitter.com/epf0F2Amn1

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) June 14, 2022

Truss claims near-empty flight to Rwanda for asylum seekers would still be ‘value for money’

And here are some more lines from Liz Truss’s interviews this morning.

  • Truss, the foreign secretary, claimed that by the end of the year the number of asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda would be “significant”. But she would not put a number on what that meant.
  • She claimed that tonight’s flight would be “value for money” – even though she also conceded it might be contain just a handful of asylum seekers. (See 9.04am.) According to some reports, the flight will cost around £500,000. Truss would not confirm this, or say what the actual cost would be, but she said it would be “value for money” because the flights would deter people from crossing the Channel in small boats. “It is value for money,” she said, adding: “We want to stop these costs [the costs of small boat Channel crossings] both in monetary cost but also in human misery.”
  • She claimed there was no reason why the EU should react negatively to the legislation published yesterday allowing the UK to disapply large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. She explained:

Our solution doesn’t make the EU any worse off. We continue to protect the single market, we’re supplying the EU with data, we’ve got strong enforcement to make sure companies aren’t violating the rules.

So there is absolutely no reason why the EU should react in a negative way to what we’re doing.

  • She said she was doing all she could to secure the release of the two Britons sentenced to death after being captured fighting against the Russians in Ukraine. But she said she wanted to do what was “most effective”, and would not discuss her strategy in public. She explained:

I am doing everything I can in the best way I can, in the way that I judge is most effective, to deliver these people’s release. I will do whatever is necessary to secure their release

“I’ve assured the families I will do what is most effective to secure their release and I’m not going to go into our strategy live on air.

She said dealing with the Ukrainians on this was the “best route”.

  • She claimed that when she said in February she would support Britons going to Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders, she also said the travel advice was that people should not go there. On the Today programme she was asked if the fate of the two Britons sentenced to death had made her reflect on the wisdom of what she said. In reply, she claimed she was clear at the time that the travel advice said people should not go to Ukraine. When her actual words at the time were put to her, she replied:

I also said that the travel advice was not to go to Ukraine.

In fact, in the original interview in which she said she would back Britons going to fight in Ukraine, she said nothing about government travel advice saying this would be a mistake. The government clarified its position subsequently.

Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning.
Liz Truss arriving for cabinet this morning. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

According to the BBC’s Mark Easton, just seven asylum seekers are now due to be on the flight to Rwanda leaving tonight.

Just 7 asylum seekers are now due to be flown to Rwanda on a chartered @ukhomeoffice removal flight tonight. The 200-seater 767 is likely to have cost £0.5m but Ministers say it is important to establish the principle.

— Mark Easton (@BBCMarkEaston) June 14, 2022

Truss hits back at bishops saying Rwanda deportation policy ‘shames Britain’, saying they have no alternative plan

Good morning. This evening the first flight is due to leave the UK carrying asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel on a one-way trip to Rwanda. It is the first flight scheduled under a policy announced earlier this year and described by Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, in the Commons on Monday as a “global first” and part of a “world-leading migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda” that would “change the way we collectively tackle illegal immigration”.

There is a different assessment of the merits of the policy in the Times this morning where all 25 bishops and archbishops sitting in the House of Lords have signed a letter saying this is an “immoral policy” that “shames Britain”. Here is the letter in full.

Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.

Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88%. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law – which protects the right to claim asylum.

We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting it. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations – and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries – are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has been on interview duty for the government this morning and she rejected the claim from the Church of England leaders. She told Sky News:

I don’t agree with [the letter], the people who are immoral in this case are the people traffickers trading in human misery. Those people need to suggest an alternative policy that will work. Our policy is completely legal, it’s completely moral.

What I’m saying to the critics of the policy who don’t have an alternative about how we deal with this illegal migration, is they don’t have an alternative, they are criticising our policy which is effective and does work.

Only around seven or eight asylum seekers are still scheduled to be on tonight’s flight. Originally the number was much higher, but many individuals have managed to get their removal orders halted by going to court. Further legal challenges are due to take place today, and some government sources have been saying that this could lead to the flight being cancelled before its scheduled departure time at 9.30pm.

But in interviews this morning Truss said the flight would be leaving tonight. She told the Today programme:

What I am able to say is the flight will leave tonight for Rwanda and if people aren’t on the flight today they will be on subsequent flights.

Asked if she was saying it could leave with no asylum seekers on it, she replied:

I’m sure there will be people on it. What I’m not able to say is how many people will be on it. But the important thing is that we establish the principle, that we establish the deterrent to deter these people trafficking gangs from the appalling human misery that they are trading in.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

10am: The high court is expected to hear further legal challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers facing deportation to Rwanda on a flight due to leave tonight.

10am: Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial standards, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee.

11am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a press conference to launch the first of a series of papers making the case for Scottish independence.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12.15pm: Robert Courts, the aviation minister, gives evidence to the Commons business committee, about flight cancellations.

After 12.30pm: MPs begin debating a Labour motion censuring Kevin Foster, the minister for legal migration, for his handling of the crisis at the Passport Office.

2.30pm: Dame Vera Baird, victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee about the draft victims bill.

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