‘Get a grip’: Keir Starmer blames Tories for ‘broken’ asylum system in PMQs clash
Sir Keir Starmer has told Rishi Sunak to “start governing for once and get a grip” as he blamed 12 years of Tory leadership on the “broken” asylum system.
The Labour leader questioned how problems the UK is facing could be anyone’s fault but the Conservatives, as the pair clashed on immigration at PMQs.
The Home Office is grappling with a huge backlog in processing asylum claims as record numbers of people continue to cross the Channel on small boats, with the government accused of “presiding over a shambles” amid overcrowding at the Manston processing centre in Kent.
Sir Keir opened PMQs asking: “His Home Secretary says the asylum system is broken. Who broke it?”
Mr Sunak pointed to his party’s record on immigration, saying Brexit has given the UK control of its borders while Labour has “no plan” for immigration.
But Sir Keir hit back that the Conservatives have “lost control of the borders”, adding: “Four prime ministers in five years. It’s the same old, same old, he stands there and tries to pass the blame.
“If the asylum system is broken, and his lot have been in power for 12 years, how can it be anyone’s fault but theirs?”
Sir Keir pointed to the Rwanda deportation scheme, saying it has cost the UK £140m and rising yet “the number of people deported to Rwanda is zero”.
“Since then, 30,000 people have crossed the channel in small boats.
“It’s not working, is it? He hasn’t got a grip.”
He repeated this attack line several times, while Mr Sunak sought to taunt the Labour leader over his support for his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir Keir also hit out at Suella Braverman, the home secretary, saying that only 4% of people arriving in small boats last year have had their asylum claim processed to date.
He joked that the bookies have Ms Braverman with more chance of “becoming the next Tory leader than processing an asylum claim in a year”.
He also referenced the 4,000 people at the Manston air base – which is only designed to hold 1,600 – asking whether the home secretary received legal advice that she should move people out.
Mr Sunak did not answer the question, but acknowledged the Channel crisis is a “serious and escalating problem” and admitted that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed.
Listing steps the government is taking to “fix this”, the PM said the government has increased the number of processing officials by 80%, procured 4,500 more hotel beds for asylum seekers and appointed a senior general to control the situation at Manston, while increasing staff there.
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“These are significant steps that demonstrate that we are getting a grip of this system,” the PM said.
“We will make sure that we control our borders and we will always do it fairly and compassionately because that is the right thing.”
‘Start governing for once and get a grip’
Sir Keir, in his concluding remarks, turned to the controversial reappointment of Ms Braverman as home secretary, six days after she resigned from the role for breaking the ministerial code.
He said: “I think the answer to the question whether the home secretary received legal advice to move people out of Manston is yes – he just hasn’t got the guts to say. Weak.
“He did a grubby deal with her – putting her in charge of Britain’s security just so that he could dodge an election. She’s broken the ministerial code, lost control of a refugee centre and put our security at risk.”
He added: “She did get one thing right – she finally admitted the Tories have broken the asylum system. Criminal gangs running amok, thousands crossing the Channel in small boats every week, hardly any claims processed.
“So why doesn’t he get a proper home secretary, scrap the Rwanda gimmick, crack down on smuggling gangs, end the small boat crossings, speed up asylum claims and agree an international deal on refugees? Start governing for once and get a grip.”
(c) Sky News 2022: ‘Get a grip’: Keir Starmer blames Tories for ‘broken’ asylum system in PMQs clash