Downing Street has refused to criticise a UK Government minister who said the policy of sending migrants to Rwanda would have only a “marginal benefit”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman described the policy of giving migrants arriving unlawfully in Britain a one-way ticket to the east African nation as an “important part of what will be the solution” to the issue of small boats crossing the English Channel.
But the No 10 official refused to directly criticise Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell for his remarks on Sunday.
“Definitely not the whole answer”
Mitchell, who was critical of the Rwanda scheme as a backbencher, told Channel 4’s Andrew Neil Show the policy was “worth exploring”, but it was “definitely not the whole answer”.
The Rwanda scheme has been mired in legal challenges, and so far no flights carrying migrants to Kigali have departed.
“It will be a marginal benefit,” Mitchell told the programme.
“What we have to do is to stop these boats and there are a series of other mechanisms which we could use to do that.”
Some Conservative MPs have been annoyed by what they perceive to be an exception for Mitchell on the concept that all ministers should back Government policy, according to reports.
Politico reported that Workington MP Mark Jenkinson sent a clip of Mitchell’s comments to a Tory WhatsApp group with the words: “How does one go about getting one of these passes that absolves you of collective responsibility?”
“No single lever”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked about the minister’s remarks, said there was “no single lever” that could be deployed to put a stop to the small boat crossings.
“I think we’ve always been clear that when it comes to dealing with this challenge, which has been very long standing, there is no single lever, no single policy, which can solve it in one bound,” he told reporters on Monday.
“It will be a number of solutions put together that will finally put an end to it.
“That is what the Government is working on doing with the Rwanda partnership, which is a very important part, and we are looking to expand that (through) some of the tougher legislation we are bringing in and the expansion of the work we are doing with our French counterparts.
“All of those are important and collectively that is what will help stop the boats.”
Mr Sunak’s spokesman said he was not aware that the Prime Minister had spoken to Mr Mitchell, a former international development secretary, about his views on the impact the Rwanda policy might have on migrant numbers.
The Prime Minister and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are working on legislation that will be used to deter migrants from entering Britain unlawfully.
No 10 said it was a “priority for the Prime Minister” and that the draft law was being worked on “urgently” but refused to set out a timeline for when it would be published.
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