PMQs: Rishi Sunak accused by Keir Starmer of being ‘absolutely deluded’ over small boats plan

 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over a migration crackdown during a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

The Labour leader said the government’s plan to tackle small boat crossings was “absolutely deluded”, while the PM branded Sir Keir “another leftie lawyer” seeking to disrupt the Government’s immigration plans.

Sir Keir criticised the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which paved the way for the Rwanda deportation scheme - a policy which has stalled - and the latest legislation aimed at curbing Channel crossings.

He accused the Government of delivering “utter failure” and warning the “problem just gets worse with every new gimmick”.

But Mr Sunak told Sir Keir: “He asked about arrests, he asked about our laws. Actually when I was in Dover yesterday talking to our law enforcement officials, what did they tell me?

“Precisely because of the law that the Conservative Government passed last year they have now been able to arrest more than double the number of people they did before - 397 in the last six months.

“But stopping the boats is not just my priority, it is the people’s priority.

“But his position on this is clear: he wanted to scrap the Rwanda deal, he voted against measures to deport foreign criminals and he even argued against deportation flights.

“We know why - on this matter he talks about his legal background, he’s just another leftie lawyer standing in our way.”

Sir Keir, a former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, highlighted that just 21 people out of the 18,000 deemed ineligible for asylum were deported from the UK last year.

He added: “And what happens to the rest? They sit in hotels and digs for months on end at taxpayers’ expense.”

A Labour spokesman confirmed that the party’s MPs would be instructed to vote against the Illegal Migration Bill.

Sir Keir had earlier opened the exchanges in the Commons by warning the Government’s Bill would drive a “coach and horses” through the country’s modern slavery framework that protects women from exploitation.

Mr Sunak replied by claiming Labour is in favour of “open door immigration and unlimited asylum, adding: “Whilst he may be on the side of the people-smugglers, we are on the side of the British people.”

Sir Keir suggested Mr Sunak would “steal our plan on stopping boats” if he was “serious” about responding to the issue.

The Prime Minister replied by claiming Sir Keir has been on the “wrong side” of the issue “his entire career”, adding: “He described all immigration law as racist. He said it was a mistake to control immigration. And he has never, ever voted for tougher asylum laws.

“It is clear while he is in hock to the open-border activists, we’re on the side of the British people.”

After the men exchanged further jibes, Sir Keir later claimed Mr Sunak was “absolutely deluded” to think his new plans would work.

He said: “They can’t say when they’ll fix the mess because it’s more talk, more gimmicks, more promises to be broken.”