This article was first published in the Hackney Gazette. To read the latest edition, see here.
Parliament returned from its festive break this week. But the new year sadly hasn’t meant new ways of thinking or acting for this Government – it is still stuck in its wasteful spiral that prioritises chasing headlines at the taxpayers’ expense.
Never has this been clearer than with the Government’s latest attempts to resuscitate its doomed plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. £240m has already been transferred to Rwanda without a single asylum seeker setting foot in the country – although three Home Secretaries have flown over to pose for the cameras.
And this money is just for starters – another £50m is due to be transferred to Rwanda this year with yet more money (although the Government refuses to reveal how much) transferred in subsequent years. We only know the latest update to these figures because Rwanda released them.
As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (Parliament’s public spending watchdog), I only received a late-night letter detailing the big sums minutes before this was made public. Originally the Government wanted to wait 15 months since the decision was made before revealing it. This is not good enough. It’s reflective of the shambolic, secretive, and chaotic way this Government is run. I pressed the Prime Minister directly on the need to be upfront and transparent about public spending on one of the Government’s flagship policies. We all have the right to know, in good time, how our money is being spent.
I suspect the Government’s reluctance around this is because it knows the scheme is not good value for money. Last year the Supreme Court reached a factual finding that, for the purposes of processing asylum claims, Rwanda is not a safe country. The Government’s response is to try and pass a law that makes up its own facts and contradicts the Supreme Court’s evidence-based finding. It is the sign of a government in desperate straits.
Many in Hackney sadly know too well the eye-watering backlogs and the shambles in the Home Office. Delays in deciding spousal, work, and asylum cases. Clunky experiences in renewing Leave to Remain visas and issuing biometric residence permits. And yet the Government is so focused on its madcap Rwanda scheme. Fixing its own mess here should be the Government’s priority – not picking fights with the Supreme Court and pouring even more taxpayers’ money down the drain.